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Dawn of a new era in the Korean Peninsula

The road to peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula is pebbled with challenges. But given the fact that the leaders of the two Koreas, and also the US, are showing willingness to find solutions to the vexed problem, there are hopes that things will change for the better

opinion Updated: Apr 30, 2018 18:25 IST
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un walks up to South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, April 27, 2018(Reuters)

The date April 27, 2018, will be remembered as a milestone in the history of the two Koreas. Thanks to his vision and persistent peace efforts, South Korean President Moon Jae-in succeeded in convincing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who was demonised all these years for reckless behaviour, to a dialogue. And, in a dramatic shift of stance, the North Korean leader crossed the Military Demarcation Line for the summit meeting with Moon in the Truce Village of Panmunjom. This is the first time the highest leadership of North Korea has set foot on South Korean soil since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Moon extended a red-carpet welcome to Kim. Clearly, the two leaders seemed to have shed their apprehensions and are eager to join hands to herald a new era of peace and prosperity in the Korean Peninsula.

After the talks, the two leaders issued The Panmunjom Declaration in which they agreed to pursue denuclearisation of the peninsula, to sign a peace treaty, to stop hostile actions, to establish a joint liaison office, to hold reunions of separated families in August and to jointly participate in international sporting events, among others. Moon also agreed to visit Pyongyang this fall. These achievements by all reckoning are historic, especially in the backdrop of continued tensions and threat of war on the peninsula.

The inter-Korean summit has raised hopes for peace and stability on the divided peninsula. A series of summit meetings — South Korea-Japan-China trilateral, South Korea-US, North Korea-US — will be held in the weeks ahead. The outcome of these summits will have a significant bearing on North Korea’s denuclearisation and the inter-Korean peace process.

The driving force behind the current turn of events has been the ‘political will’ displayed by Moon, Kim and US President Donald Trump. Particularly Moon, who by playing a pivotal role, has demonstrated the ability to adapt and make bold decisions. Sensing the seriousness and sincerity in Moon’s approach, Kim agreed to have a dialogue. Trump rose to the occasion and displayed fine acumen to boldly engage with the North Korean leader.

For almost 11 years, inter-Korean tensions were simmering and reached a flash point. It was only when Moon took office in May 2017 that the ice began to melt. His approach towards reconciliation with the North came from his agonising personal experience. His parents fled from North Korea during the Korean War, and Moon was born in Geoje Island, where North Korean POW camps were located and it is the same place where Indian custodian forces were dispatched to guard POWs.

Moon also served as the chief of staff to former president, Roh Moo-hyun, who had a summit meeting with Kim Jong-il in 2007. He knew precisely why earlier efforts to achieve peace and stability failed. Moon, even before taking office, had drawn a road map for the peace process with the help of his advisory group, of which I was fortunate to be a part. The developments which we are witnessing in the recent months beginning with North Korea’s participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, exchange of envoys, the inter-Korean summit and series of summits which are scheduled to take place in the coming months were already there in his vision.

The road to peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula is pebbled with challenges. But given the fact that the leaders of the two Koreas, and also the US, are showing willingness to find solutions to the problem, there are hopes that things will change for the better.

Otto von Bismarck, the architect of Germany’s unification, had, while talking about leadership ability, described it as the “ability to intuit God’s movements in history, and seize the hem of His garment as He sweeps past”. President Moon Jae-in has seized the hem of the garment and the world waits as he heralds in a new dawn on the Korean Peninsula.

Shin Bongkil is ambassador, Republic of Korea to India

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Apr 30, 2018 18:25 IST