The hope for world peace after the Second World War has faded into insignificance with the current ongoing regional armed conflicts in the Middle East and tribal wars in Africa. There is a gleam of hope that the tension arising from North Korea’s nuclear weapons program can be diffused in order to avert the armed conflict to spread in Northeast Asian region. Regional conflicts can lead to a global war.
Asia is the most dynamic region in the world today as evidenced by the rapid economic growth in China, the fast technological development in India, Japan, the second largest economy in the world, plus the advanced economies of Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore.
Filipinos and Filipino immigrants are interested in reducing regional tensions in Northeast Asia, particularly in regards to the North Korean nuclear weapons program. There is an indication that North Korea is willing to have a fruitful dialog with South Korea and other concerned countries such as the United States, China, Russia and Japan.
The personal views of some Filipinos, I interviewed recently, agree that the unification of the two Koreas is welcomed as long as it will result in peace, security, stability and prosperity in the Northeast Asian region. Dr. Jose Gatchalian, Ret. Professor from the University of the Philippines expressed the same sentiments. My personal perspectives follow the same line of thought with the above sources. It is now up to the two Koreas to work together to realize their dream of unification. In the process of unifying, Koreans could learn from the experience of West and East Germany unification.
To understand the Filipino perspective regarding this subject of Korean unification, let us consider the provisions in the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines regarding foreign relations. These are stated in the following sections in Article II, Declaration of Principles and State Policies.
Section 2 states: “The Philippines renounces war as an instrument of National Policy, adapts the generally accepted Principles of International Law as part of the law of the land and adheres to the policy of peace, equality, justice, freedom, cooperation and amity of all nations.”
Section 7 states: “The State shall pursue an independent foreign policy. In its relations with other States, the paramount consideration shall be national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest and the right to self-determination.”
Section 8 states: “The Philippines, consistent with the national interest, adapts and pursues a policy of freedom from nuclear weapons in its territory.”
It is, therefore, very clear that the Philippines will exhaust all diplomatic avenues following strictly the policies as stated above to maintain peace and to avoid any action leading to conflict.
Furthermore, Section 8 declares that the Philippines is against the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region and in the world at large.
IMPEDIMENTS TO KOREAN UNIFICATION
1. The presence of Nuclear Weapons Program in North Korea. This is the most serious impediment to Korean unification that would require North Korea to dismantle its Nuclear Weapons Program before any peace talks could start.
2. The differences in the levels of economic development in the two Koreas. South Korea has an advanced economy while North Korea is still economically underdeveloped. It will take time for North Korea to raise its level of standard of living to catch up with South Korea. In order to reduce stress in South Korean economy, North Korea should be given time to develop its economy before unification can take place. It is imperative that South Korea should provide sustainable assistance in terms of capital infusion and technology to North Korea. Other countries, like China, Russia, Japan and the United States should also provide economic assistance to North Korea.
Again, the two Koreas could learn from the experience of West Germany when it merged with impoverished East Germany, which until now have a discrepancy in their standards of living.
3. Ideological differences between North Korea and South Korea South Korea is democratic, while North Korea is communist. With a strong economy, South Korea can serve as catalyst and model in the development of democratic institutions in North Korea such as what is now happening slowly in China. China has opened its market to foreign investments and trade through limited free enterprise systems.
4. Conflicting national interests of China, United States, Japan and Russia. There may be power struggles among the key players, which may not be conducive to Korean unification. The U.S. has a military base in South Korea. China, Russia and Japan may have conflicting economic interests in Korea.
5. The problem of communication between the two Koreas arising from the long separation after the Korean War. A continuous dialogue to thresh out problems and the process needed to bring about unification should be clarified.
SUMMARY OF SUGGESTIONS TO PAVE THE WAY TO KOREAN UNIFICATION
1. North Korea, in the interest of regional security and stability in the Northeast Asian region, should give up its Nuclear Weapons Program.
2. There is a need for sustainable economic assistance to North Korea from the economically developed countries, such as the United States, Japan, China and Russia. South Korea should increase its assistance in terms of infusion of capital and technology.
3. Korea unification could learn from the experience in Germany in order to reduce the impact arising from changes in restructuring the North Korea economy, relocation, cultural readjustment and ideological differences.
4. Both peoples with common experience in the past and tradition must desire to work together for the unification of their country.
Presented at the Korean Young Leaders Retreat
Lion Square Lodge, Vail, Colorado, Nov. 13th, 2009
By Prof. Nestor J. Mercado