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Jeju Forum Alumni Newsletter
Titles [Jeju Forum Alumni Newsletter] (No.8 | December 2018) Ireland and the Devil’s Details!
Writer JPI  (admin)
2018-12-05 오후 5:37:11

Ireland and the Devil’s Details!




Glyn Ford

Director of The Track2Asia Former member of the European Parliament


For those looking to manage future relations between North and South a great deal of focus and attention has been on the process of German unification. Some of this dates back to Kim Dae-jung’s sojourn at Cambridge University when his study led to the development of the ‘Sunshine Policy’. On the twenty-fifth anniversary of that pilgrimage it is important to remind ourselves that the ‘Sunshine Policy’ came from a recognition that a reprise the German model wouldn’t work on the Peninsula for an amalgam of financial, social and political reasons. A quarter of a century on those truths are even more self-evident.


Pyongyang realizes that early re-unification is another word for assimilation. Yes, they aspire to eventual re-unification but only after their economy, that has been forced for decades to live a lie desperate to keep up in the Peninsula’s arms race that has sucked all the life out of the civilian economy, is able to flower and grow a double digit percentages for a quarter of a century. For the moment the aspiration is ‘two countries, one system’.


Thus the appropriate model to learn from is Ireland not Germany. The Irish Peace Process is worthy of study because will be more likely to be analogous to the situation on the Peninsula. For here was peace without unification. But this very process required both sides to accept the unacceptable, endure the unendurable and forgive the unforgettable. Those accused and those guilty of mayhem, bombings and the murder of men, women and children on both sides were given immunity from prosecution.


There is no peaceful unification unless a similar path is followed on the Peninsula. It was this that made Pyongyang so dismissive of Park Guen-hye’s talk of peaceful unification as she simultaneously set up the machinery, with the invitation for the UN’s Centre for Human Rights in North Korea in Incheon, to churn out lists of those in the North guilty of Human Rights violations. No-one can escape the knowledge of man’s inhumanity to man in the North. The aim must be the earliest possible cessation. This will follow the adoption of the Irish model and the South African model of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.


The last twelve months has seen a truly remarkable transformation in North-South relations on the Peninsula and a new rapprochement between Pyongyang and Washington that few would have foreseen in the early days of the Trump Administration. Even with the promise of a second Kim-Trump Summit in Asia sometime after the middle of next January we are a long, long way from the finish line. Those negotiations will pose some difficult issues as regards the verified ending of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program and the removal of material and bombs over the next decade. This is well understood by all those involved. What is less appreciated and even spoken about in the South, are some tricky issues that will need addressing and resolving between Seoul and Pyongyang. 


Here there is a role for the Jeju Peace Forum. First it should develop and adapt, on the basis of the Irish and South African experience, a model law setting out a legal framework post-unification. Early unification may not be on the agenda, but the process will be eased and quickened if those in power in the North are aware early on of the legal jeopardy that unification will pose for them and their families.


Second the Forum should address interregnum issues that must be dealt with in a pragmatic way in the time between settlement and unification. Clearly the ‘iron curtain’ that has held for forty years along the DMZ is rightly being weakened. The recent recognition by UNC Commander Vincent Brooks that security around Panmunjom can be sharply reduced is just the first of many such steps. Yet these will have consequences as yet unaddressed. Even under the previous regime there were ‘defections’ across the DMZ. There was the spectacular defection in November last year of a soldier in a jeep and in 2012 an earlier ‘defection’.


With the slackening of security, the occasional will become common and potentially a flood. Currently ‘defectors’ and economic migrants from the North are automatically welcomed and paid a bounty for moving to the South. With rapprochement people in the DPRK will learn more of the ‘prosperity gap’ between North and South and ‘illegal’ migration will become easier. How will Seoul control this process? In the last sixty-five years 30,000 ‘defectors’ and economic migrants have arrived in the South. At the height of the Syrian crisis Germany was taking in that many per day!


With or without such resettlement grants does Seoul in future return those fleeing in any circumstances? The defector in 2012 had killed his platoon and squadron leaders, while last November’s defector seemingly admits to manslaughter or worse. Do North Koreans visiting the South have some kind of ‘immunity’ from prosecution if accused of Human Rights violations as former campguards? What about those accused of non-political crimes? Does the South accept the North allowing/encouraging the aged and infirm to join their families in the South?


What about the problem in reverse? The South Korean Evangelical Christians who will court arrest and martyrdom as they proselytize in the North. How does Seoul respond when they are arrested and jailed? Does it ask for them to be deported back home and pay an indemnity? Does the same apply to Northeners promoting Kimilsungism? As is said, ‘the devil is in the detail’ and it is the unintended consequences of some of these unanswered questions that may prove as dangerous as some of the nuclear issues. It won’t be long before the first family ‘defects’ across the DMZ. The Jeju Forum has work to do!


Glyn Ford is the author of ‘Talking to North Korea’ (Pluto, 2018) that will be published in Korean later this year. He’s a former Labour Member of the European Parliament (1984-2009) and has visited Pyongyang almost fifty times in the last twenty-one years.


Glyn Ford was a Member of the European Parliament for over 25 years, leaving the EP in June 2009. Before entering the European Parliament Glyn was a Senior Research Fellow in Manchester University’s Department of Science and Technology Policy and was at various times a Visiting Fellow/ Professor at Sussex University, the University of Tokyo and the East-West Centre in Hawaii. At the European Parliament he served on both the

International Trade and Foreign Affairs Committees, particularly on dossiers related to Asia. During his time as an MEP, Glyn was rapporteur for the Free-Trade Agreement with ASEAN, for implementing the Scientific Partnership Agreement with the Republic of Korea, and he was ‘shadow’ on the EU-Japan and EU-China trade agreements.


(For more information about Glyn Ford’s activities in the European Parliament, please follow the link

below: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/members/archive/alphaOrder/view.do?language=EN&id=1413


After leaving the Parliament, Glyn Ford founded POLINT, focusing on European Politics, International Relations and International Trade. He also continued his political and academic engagement with the DPRK and the East Asian region. These activities, which have always been conducted on a ‘non-profit’ basis, are now carried out in the framework of the NGO Track2Asia.


Thanks to his engagement with the DPRK, he is now considered one of the most pre-eminent European experts on the Korean peninsula in particular, and East Asia in general. A sample of this expertise can be seen in his books “North Korea on the Brink” (Pluto Press, 2008 and later translated into Japanese and Korean) and "Talking to North Korea" (Pluto Press, 2018).