Despite its history, the tensions with North Korea and other pressures, South Korea adheres to Article 5 of its constitution, [War, Armed Forces] which states that:
(1) The Republic of Korea endeavors to maintain international peace and renounces all aggressive wars.
(2) The Armed Forces are charged with the sacred mission of national security and the defense of the land and their political neutrality must be maintained.
The South and North of Korea were separated by a civil war that ended in 1953 and South Korea set up a Ministry of Unification to work for reconciliation. The late president Kim Dae Jung formulated a “sunshine policy” under which South Korea tried to persuade Kim Jong Il’s regime to effect change through economic assistance, moving from confrontation to coexistence and opening up new diplomatic avenues on the Korean Peninsula.
Goldman Sachs became fully aware of the economic advantages of such co-existence, publishing its findings that reunification could actually be of benefit by providing South Korea with the minerals and labour force its ageing, resource-poor economy needs.
The United States repeatedly presses South Korea to support ‘tough action’ against the North, proposing reduction of the generous aid given, cutting off economic activity and suspension of its citizens’ frequent visits to family and places of interest across the border.
It also wants South Korea to join naval operations, examining and destroying certain categories of heavy artillery, missiles and spare parts being transported to or from North Korea, in accordance with the UN ban imposed after the country conducted its latest nuclear test.
Last year there was an International Consultation on Peace, Reconciliation and Reunification of the Korean Peninsula – infinitely less exciting to the British press than the peccadilloes of royalty or footballers.
Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches spoke:
“Korean reunification was expected by many, as the new generation of South Korean leaders had made great efforts to change old perceptions and move beyond the Cold War era politics of rivalry. During the regime of the late President Kim Dae Jung, the South Korean leaders came forward to build a post-Cold War framework based on shared ethnic ties and cultural values with their northern neighbour. The majority of the Korean people support reunification and a move “from confrontation to community”, reconciling the divided communities . . .”
“Today, we witness an unprecedented increase in economic cooperation between the North and the South. More visits of the South Koreans to the North are taking place. Cooperation on joint projects such as reconnection of roads and railways, the Kaesung Industrial Park and tourism at Kumgang, an increase of cultural contacts, joint sporting events, reunion of families and exchanges between different sectors of the Korean societies, are all positive steps that will ultimately lead to reunification.”
Though there have been interruptions to several of these activities following nuclear tests, other incidents and pressures to adopt and adversarial stance, South Korea has done its best to promote good relationships with the North. We hope that one day its example will be more widely known – and followed.