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COMMENTARY

Spring is coming to the Korean Peninsula

05:05 AM April 24, 2018

“Spring is Coming” is the name of the music concert held in Pyongyang on April 1, featuring South Korean performers.
After watching the show, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un mentioned that he would send his cultural performance group to Seoul later this year for a similar concert with the title “Autumn has Come.”

Indeed, spring is coming to the Korean Peninsula, and people involved are busy sowing seeds of peace, as an inter-Korean summit on April 27, to be followed by the first US-North Korea summit, is on the horizon. The question is: When autumn comes, will there be anything to harvest?

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As North Korea persists in expanding its nuclear and missile capability, tension in the Korean Peninsula continues to escalate, raising concerns not only for Koreans but also for people around the world on a possible outbreak of another armed conflict.

President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea has been trying to find ways to minimize this imminent threat. He announced his policy toward North Korea in Berlin in July 2017, expressing his willingness to play a leading and more proactive role in pursuit of easing tensions and promoting peace in the Korean Peninsula. He made it clear that his administration, along with the international community, will not accept a nuclear North Korea and urged the latter to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. If the North makes the right decision, South Korea, closely cooperating with the rest of the world, is ready to help it secure a brighter future.

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Responding to President Moon’s proposal, North Korean leader Kim agreed to dispatch North Korean athletes to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. As it happened, the Winter Olympics lived up to its goal of being “Games of Peace.” Athletes representing the two Koreas marched under the Korean Unification Flag during the opening ceremonies. Joining the athletes was a high-level delegation, headed by Kim Yo-jong, who conveyed her brother Kim Jong-un’s message to President Moon.

After the Winter Olympics, President Moon’s special envoy to the North, National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong, was able to confirm the North Korean leader’s commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Moreover, Kim, in his meeting with President Moon’s special envoy, expressed his intent to engage in a candid dialogue with the United States on the issue of denuclearization. To the astonishment of people around the globe, US President Donald Trump instantly accepted the North Korean proposal to hold a dialogue. The United States and North Korea are now preparing a summit between their leaders, the first of its kind if it pushes through.

Optimism is running high among Koreans that the decades-old standoff may finally come to an end, and real peace in the Korean Peninsula achieved. As well, there is skepticism that the planned summits are simply North Korean tricks to ease the economic sanctions on the North. Of course, there are many critical junctures on the road to denuclearization of North Korea and settlement of peace on the Korean Peninsula, and we must admit that the way forward is not an easy one. It is imperative to lay the cornerstone for peace and prosperity in the Korean Peninsula step by step by engaging in talks with North Korea while working together with the international community. The Korean government is taking the lead in paving the way for, and ensuring the success of, the coming inter-Korean summit and the US-North Korea talks.

As last year’s chair of the Asean, the Philippines played a key role in building consensus among Asean members, which sent a unified message that encouraged denuclearization and initiatives to improve inter-Korean relations. When I met President Duterte and other prominent figures of this country, I witnessed their support for permanent peace in the Korean Peninsula. The Philippines’ historical ties with Korea as a participating country in the Korean War and its geographical proximity naturally make the Philippines pay close attention to the situation in the Korean Peninsula and wish for peace in the region.

I believe that the support of the international community, including the Philippines, for a diplomatic effort, such as the inter-Korean summit in April and the ensuing US-North Korea summit, is consequential in creating an ideal environment for permanent peace.

I sincerely hope that we can all enjoy the harvest of peace and joy in autumn this year.

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Han Dong-man is the ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the Philippines.

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TAGS: Autumn Has Come, Han Dong-man, Inquirer Commentary, Kim Jong-un, Korean peace talks, Moon Jae-In, Spring Is Coming
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