Minister Ryoo talks about Trust-Building Process
Inter-Korean relations have entered into a phase of change under the Park Geun-hye Administration. Shifting away from traditional conflict, tension, and distrust, the two Koreas seem to be carefully and slowly building trust and taking steps forward for peace. The two sides recently had a talk about holding family reunions within the coming months and, in addition, this morning, reached an agreement to reopen the joint Kaesong Industrial Region, a symbol of economic cooperation.
At the center of what made it possible to lessen tension and bring out South-North dialogue is the Trust-Building Process on the Korean Peninsula initiated by the Park Administration. Korea.net sat down with Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae of Unification who is at the forefront of the initiative.
Q: How do you define the Trust-Building Process and where does the term originate from?
The Trust-Building Process on the Korean Peninsula is a new North Korea policy adopted by the Park Administration to achieve three objectives -- improving inter-Korean ties, establishing peace on the peninsula, and laying groundwork for unification -- based on mutual trust. Inasmuch as the two sides have had so many highs and lows, having been unable to find an escape from the mode of confrontation for such a long time, now is, I hope, the time to break out from the vicious cycle. There we came to suggest the new policy named the Trust-Building Process through which we hopefully will build a solid trust and the foundation for a sustainable relationship with North Korea. We would like to take some time to unravel the problem step by step and hopefully strike up a relationship based on a set of internationally agreed norms.
Q: What are the directions and measures for the Trust-Building Process?
With a core focus on trust building, we pursue three main objectives -- improving inter-Korean ties, establishing peace on the peninsula, and laying groundwork for unification -- as mentioned before. In the case of relationships, the “how” of their development is more important than the “how much” in number of exchanges or extent of cooperation. Trust is much more important than speed.
In order to fulfill the first aim of establishing peace on the peninsula, we will step up our efforts to resolve the nuclear issue joining together with the international community while maintaining national security and remaining vigilant. Also, we will make efforts to strengthen our own capabilities and win support and sympathy from the international community to lay groundwork for unification.
We are planning to proceed the Trust-Building Process in an effective and balanced way with the adoption of a carrot-and-stick policy. Just as four well-balanced wheels of a vehicle lead to safe driving, we need to keep a balance between the carrot and stick, security and exchanges, and inter-Korea cooperation and international cooperation. While responding to provocations with strong actions, we also are ready to cooperate on righteous decisions and to encourage them to take responsibility as a member of the international community.
Q: What are South Korea’s stance on and countermeasures for the North Korea’s nuclear program?
It has always been South Korea’s consistent and firmly determined stance that we can never stand by North Korea’s nuclear program. Development of nuclear weapons will obviously cause serious threats to the Korean Peninsula, Northeast Asia, and beyond to world peace and global security.
The South Korean government will adopt a flexible and alternative approach between pressure and conversation while working closely together with the international community to let them become clearly aware that nuclear weapons are not a tool to secure the legitimacy of their regime. On the other side, however, if they make the right choice to give it up, we are willing to give active aid and support to North Korea in association with the international community.
Q: What are the Korean government’s directions for unification?
Unification of the two Koreas has been a long-cherished wish and a problem that must be solved to end the 70 years of division. With the launch of the Trust-Building Process, the Korean government intends to ease military tension between the two sides, work toward enduring peace, and form an economic community at the first level and then strive for political unity later on. The current plan is in step with previous policies carried out by former presidents that seek slow and gradual development. Unification should come with a social environment where individual members of society have a concept of human dignity, and can enjoy freedom and human rights as well as economic and cultural prosperity. What it means to be unified should be more than just two separated regions being united, but something that contributes to world peace and the well-being of mankind.
Q: The DMZ Peace Park has often been remarked on. What is the plan?
Following the president’s speech before the U.S. Congress about the DMZ Peace Park on May 8, it became one of the most-talked-about topics in recent months. We have envisioned a plan for the Demilitarized Zone to regain the true meaning of its name by transforming the heavily armed region back into a peaceful park where people from North and South Korea as well as all across the world gather to enjoy freedom, peace, and trust. The plan is now well underway with the participation of associated organizations and experts.
We will soon find a better time to discuss the issue as soon as a social environment is created as the way President Park suggested in her August 15 speech at the celebration of the 67th anniversary of independence. The construction of the peace park will proceed on the basis of support and cooperation of the international community.
By Wi Tack-whan, Lee Seung-ah
Korea.net Staff Writers