Last October, when the situation on the Korean Peninsula was on a knife’s edge, I had an opportunity to visit Germany.
I had wanted to explore this unified country for 28 years and to learn some meaningful lessons from the Berlin Wall.
The concrete barrier that physically separated the ideologically divided city of Berlin for almost three decades and symbolised the Cold War can now be found only as segments in museums. I was able to touch some remaining sections which had been turned into a historical installation of an important landmark, the former border crossing Checkpoint Charlie.
Even though the Cold War seems to have ended in most parts of the world, the Korean Peninsula remains a significant site of ongoing tension. After 65 years of hostile separation, on April 27 of this year an Inter-Korean Summit was held at Panmunjeom.
This promised to be a historic milestone in ending the world’s last remaining Cold War conflict. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appeared on TV screens walking towards South Korean territory, finally crossing the military demarcation line. When the South Korean president was shown shaking hands with Kim Jong-un, South Koreans across the nation and throughout the world shouted and applauded.
It took less than two minutes for a North Korean leader to step onto South Korean territory for the first time since the Korean War armistice agreement in 1953. The most emotional aspect of this historical summit of two Koreas was the fact that there was no need for any interpreters. Not surprisingly, both leaders spoke the same language. Moreover, they signed the Panmunjom Declaration scripted in Korean language, reflecting the enduring aspiration of the Korean people for peace, prosperity and unification on the Korean Peninsula.
The declaration of two fraternal leaders that there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula surely propelled the North Korea and US summit: the so-called deal of the century.
The 80 million Koreans in the Korean Peninsula, together with the Korean diaspora throughout the world hoped this summit would lay the foundation for a peaceful unification. At a minimum, people hoped for a declaration to end the Korean War.
Indeed, this historical summit has been a momentous beginning for a process of denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, heading towards a path of permanent peace. However, there are many pending political issues to be resolved.
It appears Kim Jong-un values the urgency of denuclearisation and will immediately proceed with steps toward the establishment of a peace treaty, and ultimately, the unification of two countries. He is no longer a ‘rocket man’, rather a talented leader of negotiation, as US President Donald Trump tweeted. This young leader knows what he should do for the 28 million North Koreans he has inherited to rule from his father and grandfather.
No doubt, a new era of peace on the Korean Peninsula has begun. It does not matter that it may take a long time to achieve one Korea. We Koreans happily wait to see how a newly established relationship between North Korea and the US will proceed to officially end the Korean War and establish a peace treaty. If Trump deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for this, may the prize be granted to him, and peace to the Koreans.
This year will mark the 65th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War armistice agreement. Is it too much to dream of the South and North Koreas and the US signing a peace treaty on 27 July 2018, exactly 65 years to the date when the armistice was signed by United Nations, North Korea, and China?
The UCA’s 2018 Contextual learning trip for Next-Gen will visit South Korea soon. They will visit Panmumjeom and the Korean Demilitarised Zone, a border barrier that divides the Korean Peninsula roughly in half. Who knows if this buffer zone will one day soon become the next historical Berlin Wall in a reunited nation?
Silvia Yang is a member of the Korean Church of Melbourne.
Image: The White House/Facebook