- 연구원소식 - Jeju, Island of World Peace 컨텐츠
Jeju, Island of World Peace 컨텐츠
Titles [Jeju, Island of World Peace] (No.1 | February 2019)_The Recent Peace Process on the Korean Peninsula and the Role of Jeju
Writer JPI  (admin)
2019-09-17 오후 4:24:20


The Recent Peace Process on the Korean Peninsula and the Role of Jeju




PARK Ihn-hwi

Professor, Ewha Womans University


As President Moon Jae-in took office, the South Korean government began delivering peace messages to North Korea. The 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics enabled South Korea, North Korea, and the United States to hope for the resumption of talks and tackle the Korean Peninsula’s security issues in a fundamental manner. The diplomatic progress between South Korea and North Korea, between the U.S. and North Korea, and between North Korea and China, which continued in the last year, was, in retrospect, a series of unexpected events.


We were able to see that North Korean denuclearization and the Korean Peace Regime were being realized through the three inter-Korean summits, the resumption of North Korea-China summits which were halted for more than six years, and especially the U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore. However, peace does not happen easily. Likewise, inter-Korean relations and the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, which have persistently experienced vicious cycles since the end of the Korean War, will not change overnight.


The South Korean government and the international community came to understand that a more well-defined and definite policy framework is necessary to bring about peace on the Korean Peninsula. In this context, there are two main roles that Jeju Island, which is known as the “Island of World Peace,” can perform.  


First, the Moon Jae-in administration is pursuing an active engagement policy toward North Korea for peace on the Korean Peninsula. Although inter-Korean projects made little progress due to the their linkage to progress in the denuclearization of North Korea, it is expected that the Moon administration will seek a more vigorous engagement policy once the U.S. and North Korea narrow their differences on a roadmap toward North Korean denuclearization and accomplish substantial results at the second U.S.-North Korea summit planned for the end of this February. However, it is not just the government that needs to endeavor to implement a positive engagement policy toward North Korea. There should be a division of labor among various actors in diverse fields in our society. And Jeju Island, in this case, can be an important actor to carry out this role.


Jeju is a Special Self-Governing Province which has long been conducting inter-Korean cooperation and exchanges regularly, including tangerine donations to North Korea. When considering a local government’s role in the development of inter-Korean relations, people usually think of Gyeonggi Province or Gangwon Province, which both border North Korea. However, Jeju is the only area that is designated as a “Land of Peace (Island of Peace)” in South Korea, and the Jeju Forum, which is holding its 14th forum this year, has drawn keen attention not only from Koreans but also from world leaders whose interests concern world peace. Establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula can be achieved not only through a single government's efforts but requires cooperation among diverse actors in society in this regard, Jeju can be the most reliable partner.


Second, resolving North Korean issues and establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula are not just a Korea-specific matter. Thus, the role of the U.S., China, and other neighboring countries currently in talks for the Peace Regime should be taken into careful consideration and this well reflects the international characteristics of the problem. As is already known, agendas addressing which countries should be included in, or party to, a declaration ending the Korean War show that the issues related to the Korean Peninsula are deeply connected with world peace.


The reason why Korean Peninsula issues are intertwined with world peace is that settlement of the North Korean conundrum and a Korean Peace Regime will result in structural changes in the Northeast Asian regional security environment. Jeju symbolizes peace in Northeast Asia and also peace in the world, not just peace on the Korean Peninsula. Jeju is the most international area in South Korea and by hosting events such as the Jeju Forum it has become the most frequently visited location in Northeast Asia for world leaders whose interests concern world peace.


Indeed, there are several precedents where Jeju’s international role has contributed to peace on the Korean Peninsula. For example, the Roh Tae-woo administration launched a foreign policy initiative called Nordpolitik to take advantage of the end of the Cold War. As a result, South Korea was able to reestablish diplomatic ties with the former Soviet and China, and Mikhail Gorbachev, the then-General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet and the last President of the Soviet Union, visited Jeju in April 1991. Due to the longstanding friendly relations between the Soviet and North Korea, Gorbachev hesitated to visit Seoul right away. Instead, he chose Jeju as a partner for peace, demonstrating that Jeju can be the most relevant place to deal with peace-related issues not just on the Korean Peninsula, but also in Northeast Asia and the world.


The complete denuclearization of North Korea and building an enduring Korean Peace Regime are not easy tasks. Those goals will not be achieved overnight and there may be obstacles throughout the process. Therefore, North Korean denuclearization and the Korean Peace Regime processes require the wisdom and efforts of the whole nation. Meanwhile, Jeju will sometimes make its own efforts and sometimes cooperate with the government to engage North Korea. Thus, Jeju will play a key role in tackling Northeast Asian and international issues arising from security changes on the Korean Peninsula.  


In international politics, there is a term called “convening power.” Convening power enables a convener to an important agenda in the international community, bring interested parties together in an environment that encourages and facilitates the exchange of ideas, and convert this power into an important source of influence in international politics. Jeju possesses this convening power such as through the Jeju Forum and it should be strategically used in the Korean Peace Process.


Furthermore, some key North Korean figures may visit South Korea in the future to discuss the Korean Peace Process. In this case, Jeju can be the best place by providing a favorable ambience for talks and easing any political discomfort. Hopefully, Jeju makes the best out of its symbolic significance and convening power during the Korean Peace Process.


PARK Ihn-hwi is a professor in the Division of International Studies at Ewha Womans University. Prof. Park’s area of expertise includes international security, U.S. foreign policy and Northeast Asian international relations. He received his Ph.D. in international politics from Northwestern University in 1999. Prof. Park can be reached at ihpark@ewha.ac.kr.