Global Expectations for Korean Unification
Angana Guha Roy ·       

The Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU’s) multi-year research project on the costs and benefits of Korean unification has entered its fourth year, with the creation of this book. The scope of this book includes diverse perspectives from experts from across the world belonging to 13 G-20 nations. The scholars here provide a guideline to include their perspectives on the expected effects of Korean unification and the potential roles of their countries during and after the process.

They have also placed their independent opinions about the implications of Korean unification. As the international status maintained by South Korea is quiet diverse, the inclusion of international perspectives – especially the G-20 nations – becomes all the more important to reflect the trends of global governance. Also, unlike in the past when unification issues were mainly treated in the context to inter-Korean relations, this issue as part of KINU’s fourth installment opens up to consider international dimensions related to unifying the Korean Peninsula.

The following 13 countries have been chosen: a) Argentina b) Brazil c) Australia d) Canada e) France f) Germany g) India h) Indonesia i) Italy j) Mexico k) South Africa l) Turkey m) UK

The first chapter elaborates the perspective of Argentina subtracting the geopolitical implications of Korean unification for not being positioned in Asia. It explains how Argentina can positively contribute to Korean unification within and outside the G-20 institutional format. This section identifies eight policy areas in which Argentina can support the Korean unification process through lessons deriving from its own experience. This includes issues such as political lessons from democratic transition, social lessons from truth and reconciliation process and mutual confidence building lessons in the nuclear field to avoid proliferation, to mention a few. It also talks about how Argentina can support in food security and supply, design a dialogue platform for Korean youth thereby strengthening the role of Korean diaspora in Argentina or how both countries can connect in terms of diplomacy and religious belief.

From Australia’s perspective (chapter two), South Korea as an Asia-Pacific counterpart is fundamental to its future prosperity. From the geopolitical point of view, in an event of any instability on the Korean peninsula, Australia’s role in any peacekeeping, humanitarian or stability promoting exercise could be significant, given Australia’s lucrative economic ties with South Korea and the Northeast Asian region. In case of any unification, Australia can provide humanitarian aid to the North. At the regional or global level, it may use its leadership capacities in key governmental forums like ASEAN, East Asia Summit and Shangri-la Dialogue to ensure that unification is on the agenda to derive solutions to the many challenges that may arise from the unification process. It may also help South Korea in the unification process by developing new regional security and economic regional infrastructure.

The third chapter takes up the perspective of Brazil, a country that is host to a large number of Northeast Asian diaspora (especially Koreans, Japanese and Chinese). Historically, Brazil has raised its international position by actively participating in international multilateral institutions. It has also partaken in the process for negotiated solutions. Most importantly, Brazil has developed its interest in Asia by forming partnerships with various Asian nations. Meanwhile, apart from its conventional diplomatic experiences, the way Brazil negotiated maintaining their respective nuclear installations, commitment to peaceful purposes, mechanisms for mutual monitoring and submitting to the guidelines of the IAEA is nonetheless a valuable experience, which if adapted to the Korean reality, can be useful and instrumental in  finding a solution.

In the fourth chapter, while writing about the effect of the reunification and role of Canada, an Asia-Pacific country that shares historical bonds with the Korean Peninsula and contributed to opening cultural relations between Korea and the West, the author observes that Canada will have a role to play in promoting and facilitating the reintegration of the Korean community once the political conditions arrive for dissolving the sovereign division of the Korean Peninsula. Canada’s role is most likely to be modest and supporting but it can play a critical role in mobilising global resources through multilateral institutions as well as regional institutions. The author makes some honest observations accepting the lacuna of Canada’s political resources to promote the unification template of its own unlike the first three chapters. Explaining its position on the nuclear status of the Korean Peninsula, Canada too supports a denuclearised integrated Korea.

In the fifth chapter, France expresses its unwillingness to participate in a direct unification process. Instead, the author observes that it may get involved into activities that protect its national interest that implicitly will simultaneously help the Korean unification process. The foremost factors that are a concern of mutual interest of both the countries as underlined in the chapter are: i) stability of Asia-Pacific ii) solution of the existing territorial disputes prior to unification and iii) a strict respect of agreed territorial borders. It shall be also interested in promoting a reformative regime on key sectors: education, economy and its Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) program. It may also offer its political support in international organisations, including the UN Security Council, and present innovative ideas along the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in order to make the unification a peaceful and stable process in the region.

The sixth chapter on Germany is one of the most important reference points for this particular installment of the KINU project that focuses on reunification as Germany too has gone through the same experience of division. This article raises some important questions in the context of Korean unification such as: what effects will Korean unification have on Germany? What role could Germany play in the process of reunification? And most importantly, what are the lessons that can be learned from the German experience? There is no significant cooperation between Germany and South Korea on a military level so far, but as the author observes, with a unified democratic Korea, a closer military cooperation with Germany could become possible.

The seventh chapter on India, which is deepening its strategic ties with South Korea, has maintained diplomatic relations and from time to time have provide humanitarian assistance, despite having concerns over North Korea’s nuclear programme and its assistance to Pakistan’s nuclear programme. With its Look East Policy in line, India looks forward to play a major role in the unification process.

In the eighth chapter, on Indonesia’s potent role in the Korean unification process, the author raises two important questions: i) Does the unification matter for Indonesia? ii) Has Indonesia experienced dealing with the same question? The ninth chapter that portrays Italy as a dialogue facilitator suggests for the time being a peaceful non-unification between the two Koreas through economic dialogue acting as a conducive environment supported by the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). It asks as to whether there is any possibility of a ‘two state solution’, an Asian version of a Helsinki process established between the then Soviet Russia and the EU at the end of cold war. 

Interestingly, in Chapter 10, while writing about Mexico’s role in reunification process, the author makes an important point regarding the denuclearisation agenda, saying denuclearisation demands from the international community lead by the US have been more an obstacle for political talks than a factor that serves the trust-building process. Again, the author admits that apart from economic cooperation or providing humanitarian assistance, Mexico can contribute to the peace process by its congruent and unconditional commitment to de-nuclearisation. In Chapter 11, South Africa as ‘the voice of Africa’ can advance broad support for unification. It can strengthen its role as a gateway to Africa for Korea’s African diplomacy and Korea’s corporate interests.

Chapter 12 underlines Turkey’s foreign policy principle – ‘Peace at Home, Peace in the World’ – as set out by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk following which Turkey works to expand the sphere of peace and prosperity in the region and the world and help in establishing an order that paves the way for human rights, rule of law and social equality. The peaceful unification of Korea is going to eliminate an important security concern, thereby comforting Turkey. The final chapter on the UK draws reference from its erstwhile involvement in the Korean Peninsula. The author makes a brief mention about the persisting interest of the UK in issues of the Korean peninsula. Most importantly, it would be helpful in applying its residual knowledge of how conflicts can be ended and of the reconciliation processes that may be required to do so.

The second part of the book talks about the major shared concerns of these thirteen countries with the region and the major roles they are expected to play to work out the framework of peaceful reunification.

This book is extremely informative and opens up a wide spectrum of political, economic and social opportunities to support the idea of reunification. It addresses almost all major security questions that may arise vis-à-vis the aforementioned 13 countries’ foreign policy priorities. What it fails to address is as to how the countries are going to affect the attempt to unification process – which seems the most critical task at the juncture where the ROK-DPRK’s relation stands now.

Since the entire objective of the book stands on hypothetical grounds of a not-so-sure unification process in the near future, the impediments in the bilateral exchanges have not been mentioned. Moreover, none of the chapters address the issue of the necessity of molding the civil society viewpoint at a Track II level to help unification or cover up the existential aperture in the system. It is otherwise a good-read when it comes to build an understanding about the G-20 nations’ relationship with the Korean Peninsula and learning their view on unification.