Photo – AP: Korea Summit Press Pool, Friday 27 April 2018
A day of historic firsts for North and South Korea. One people. That’s what Korea once was. It was divided into two nations at the end of the Second World War. So today’s historic events are significant and if it is lasting, it will have a positive impact for the Asia Pacific region.
Why is all this happening now?
No one seems to know, although a speech has been given by North Korea’s Kim Jong Un at the historic summit in South Korea. He speaks of the bonds of being brothers, of being one nation, of pooling together so they can do better and be better. That’s what I caught of his speech.
This scene from today is fascinating.
In any case, time will tell what prompted the major shift in relations between North and South Korea.
There are still 28,500 American soldiers stationed in South Korea, among them, over the years, Samoan soldiers. There are still many families over the generations who were forcibly divided and taken or kidnapped into North Korea over the decades, even in recent years.
The same has happened to travellers and foreigners alike, like missing American Brigham Young University student David Sneddon who spoke fluent Korean and Mandarin, having previously served a mission in South Korea. There are also North Korean defectors still in Seoul who may well be terrified by today’s events. They may be very suspicious of North Korea’s motives.
There is also the lingering accusation from the US Government this year that North Korea – its leader Kim Jong-un – ordered the assassination of his half brother at the Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia last year. Then, there is President Trump’s rhetoric over Korea.
What is the truth? Only God knows, really. But this is mired in deep complexities. So there’s a long way to go before anything is clear about what happens next. But this is a promising start, if it is real.
In the meantime, I think it’s a mistake to rely solely on western analysis for an answer. There’s plenty of western analysis on today’s events on mainstream media. Certainly, some may say the past is a reliable indicator of what’s going on here. But there will be cultural differences for Korea that western analysis often fails to be informed by. Reasons that politicians and its people will be motivated by that may baffle westerners and western analysis.
It is an experience that often applies to how issues in the Asia Pacific region are mis-interpreted and misunderstood by people, including media commentators, analysts and government officials, if they are from outside of the culture that they are speaking, presenting or researching about. Hence, my caution.
Nuclear disarmament in Asia Pacific region starting with Korea
Whatever happens, today is full of history, it’s moving and incredibly promising given the announcements to end the Korean War and nuclear armament in the Peninsula. Their desire for peace and ending nuclear armament has direct and positive implications for the Asia Pacific region and the world, if that is carried out.
This breaking news was preceded earlier today by the historic moment when North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un crossed the dividing border between North and South. He is the first leader from the North to cross the demilitarisation zone that divides the North and South.
You can watch that historic moment by scrolling down
- Less than 30 minutes ago, CNN reported that North and South Korea leaders have announced today in a joint declaration that they will sign a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War later this year, 65 years after hostilities ceased.
- They have also announced a pledge to work together to rid the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons.
The peace treaty and the possibility of nuclear disarmament between North and South Korea is significant for the Asia Pacific region.
Remember the false nuclear alarm in Hawaii this year?
It was only a few months ago on Saturday 13 January (Sunday in NZ) when Hawaii went through the terrifying ordeal of believing a nuclear bomb attack from North Korea was imminent. That their lives were about to end that day. My young son, who lives in Hawaii, was among those caught up in the false alarm and all that involved.
Shock, horror, fear followed by anger is one way to describe that morning. I hope never to go through that experience again, of having a child in a country that believed it was facing a real and immediate nuclear attack. The false alarm traumatised many in Hawaii.
The psychological and emotional impact was the same as though it had been a real threat. Even after Hawaii was finally told that it was a false alarm, it took a long time for people to trust the official messages from Hawaii’s emergency disaster management centre again.
The announcement on nuclear disarmament is critical to the safety of the region and the peace of mind of its citizens and those with families in the Pacific.
CNN reported this minutes ago
The document, formally called the “Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification on the Korean Peninsula,” was revealed after a full day of meetings and a 30-minute private conversation in the past hour between Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in.
“The two leaders solemnly declare … that there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and a new era of peace has begun,” the declaration said.
Fighting in the Korean War ended in 1953 in stalemate, after which an armistice agreement was signed. But a peace treaty never followed, and the two sides are still technically at war.
“There will not be any more war on the Korean Peninsula, a new era of peace has begun,” Moon said after signing the declaration.
“Chairman Kim Jong Un and I have agreed that complete denuclearization will be achieved…”
Despite this apparent good news, it’s been reported that many western analysts remain skeptical of North Korea’s sudden enthusiasm for engaging with South Korea. Time will tell what it so and how this will impact the Asia Pacific region.
Video: The Moment When North Korea Steps Over Into South Korea
According to CNN, China’s Government has reportedly said Friday that Beijing applauds “the North and South Korean leaders for taking this historic step, and commend their political judgment and courage.”
“An ancient Chinese poem says: ‘Disasters are never powerful enough to separate real brothers, and a smile is all they need to eliminate the hard feelings.’ We hope they take this historic meeting at Panmunjom as an opportunity to further launch a new path leading to lasting peace and security on the Korean Peninsula,” she said.
China and North Korea are historic allies who boast an alliance forged in blood — more than 130,000 Chinese troops, including the son of Mao Zedong, died defending the North during the Korean War. They still maintain a mutual defense treaty, but the relationship has always been an uneasy one.
Video: Without commentary
Background: How Korea Became a 68-Year-Old War
A history lesson on how Korea was divided into North and South. It involved an agreement between the United States of America and Russia at the end of the Second World War in 1945. It had been ruled by Japan for 35 years until then.
“The division of Korea was really unprecedented and unexpected…,” says Charles K. Armstrong, Professor of Korean History, Columbia University in this news video. ” Korea had been a unified nation for well over a thousand years…”