Today's date:
Fall 2000

Only a Unified Korea Can Survive in the Information Age

Kim Dae Jung
is the president of South Korea.

Seoul—The welcome offered by Chairman Kim Jong Il and his hospitality on my visit to Pyongyang in the early summer was beyond my expectations. He went to the airport to personally receive me on arrival and also see me off on my departure. One million citizens turned out in the streets to greet me, which I am told was the largest turnout in the history of the city. To me, this was an expression of love as members of one ethnic family.

In the course of the talks, there were times when I was desperate, but I tried my level best with faithfulness. Eventually, Chairman Kim extended substantial cooperation, and we were able to reach agreement on a range of issues from visits by divided families to a "loose form of confederation" on the Korean peninsula in the future—a concept that requires maintaining two governments for the two sides as they are now and creating a conference of ministers and an assembly with which the two sides can jointly solve problems step by step.

We also talked about nuclear weapons and missile issues and the matter of United States armed forces stationed in the South. Dialogue on these subjects was very useful, and I was able to confirm that there are things that have a bright prospect for resolution.

In short, a new age has dawned for our nation. We have reached a turning point so that we can put an end to territorial division.

The Pyongyang people are the same as us, the same nation sharing the same blood. Regardless of what they have been saying and acting outwardly, they have a deep love and longing for their compatriots in the South. That is quite natural because we lived as a unified nation for 1,300 years before we were divided 55 years ago against our will.

It is impossible for us to continue to live separated physically and spiritually. I was able to reconfirm this fact firsthand during my visit. That is why I returned with the conviction that, sooner or later, we will become reconciled with each other, cooperate and finally become unified.

I expressed my view to Chairman Kim that, in the waning years of the Chosen Kingdom, when the people should have united and hastened modernization, the country was splintered and turned away from modernization. In the end, we reaped the sorrow of losing the country, resulting in 35 years of Japanese colonial rule, the division of the country on August 15, 1945, the Korean War and the confrontation across barbed wire. Thus, I asked, didn’t the Chosen rulers give the country 100 years of punishment?

Now, the world is entering into an age of the greatest revolutionary change in the history of mankind—the age of knowledge and information. It is also entering into a time of borderless and boundless economic competition.

How, I asked Chairman Kim, can we survive if we who are one people waste our energy against each other? On the other hand, even if we cannot unify the country right away, we can open the skies, roads and harbors; we can come and go freely, cooperate with each other, develop the economy together and have exchanges in culture and sports.

"Wouldn’t the Korean education tradition and cultural creativity be assets in the age of knowledge in the 21st century?" I asked. Ours is no longer an age of imperialism when the Big Four powers rule us. On the contrary, the Big Four powers are our markets, and we can benefit from that.

At this time, if we don’t become alert and North and South don’t cooperate with each other but fight instead, what would be our fate? Whatever else happens, we must not stick to the ideas of communizing the South or absorbing the North. Instead, I said, let us coexist and proceed on the path toward unification. This is a time of opportunity for us to forge, together, a first-rate nation in the 21st century.
Of course, none of this means that everything went smoothly in our talks or that there is nothing to worry about. This is only the beginning. It will take time: We need patience, and we need devotion. We also need to look at things from the point of view of the other side
There should be not the slightest wavering in the resolve on the part of the Republic of Korea to maintain national security and sovereignty. But we must ultimately go on the path to unification by solving one thing at a time, taking the easiest things first while cooperating with each other and giving consideration to the other side.
Korea is one country with one ethnic family. Koreans of both North and South have the same behavior and lifestyles. But it is also true that South and North Koreans have lived under different political and social systems for decades. These gaps cannot be narrowed down within a short time.

But the North will no longer attempt unification by force and, at the same time, we will not do any harm to the North. In short, the most important outcome of the summit was that there is no longer going to be any war between us.

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