RAISING AN ISSUE1
A new era of a great transformation is looming over the Korean Peninsula. The Korean Peninsula, as one of the last vestiges of the Cold War, has a history riddled with division, war and hostile interdependence, and is now facing a historical inflection point which would lead us to a new age of peace. On Apr. 27, 2018, South and North Korea held the historical inter-Korean Summit which produced the Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula. The success of the inter-Korean Summit shapes favorable conditions and lays the groundwork for the upcoming US – DPRK Summit, which will provide a defining opportunity for the Korean Peninsula to finally shed its Cold War shackles and move on to an era of peace. Now, a journey towards peace process has begun for the Korean Peninsula. There is no doubt that this process will not be a well-trodden road. We will have to overcome numerous hurdles and navigate unanticipated potholes as we move forward to establish peace on the Korean Peninsula. Nonetheless, we should press on with an earnest belief that our endeavors made during the peace process will pave the way for the Korean Peninsula to finally enjoy sustainable peace and prosperity. The Korean Peninsula Peace Process consists of three sub-processes specifically to realize the Berlin Initiative announced by President Moon in July 2017. These sub-processes, namely the inter-Korea cooperation for peace, US – DPRK cooperation for peace, and Northeast Asia cooperation for peace, are both independent and in sync. As these three processes will act as pillars that prop up the Korean Peninsula Peace Process, it is important that they proceed in a balanced and stable manner. And to this end, denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the establishment of an everlasting peace regime should precede. But most importantly, we need to upend the existing security logic which dictates that peace can be achieved and maintained solely by safeguarding national security.
DEPARTURE FROM A SECURITY LOGIC THAT PEACE IS DETERMINED BY SECURITY
International politics in modern times has the following three characteristics by nature: Firstly, international politics unlike domestic politics is driven by an anarchic system, which is mainly attributable to the absence of a higher power that holds authority to regulate and control state sovereignty. Secondly, since states are perceived as primary actors in this anarchic structure, the international community is considered as a society of the states. Thirdly, embedded in the modern international system are the attributes of hierarchical power politics that place significance on power distribution. Such perception of a modern international system is principally reflective of realism of international relations. The key assertion of realism is that the overriding priority for states is to ensure its own survival in an anarchic system. And as the primary mission for every state is to survive, national security and states’ perception of security are derived from state survival. In other words, because security, in modern international relations, is basically a demonstration of state-centric thinking, peace cannot be considered to be a value in itself. Arguments that national security should be of utmost priority in guaranteeing peace, and that peace without security is like a house of cards, symbolically reflects such realities. During the 20th century, the dichotomous approach to security and peace and the perception of ”security first, peace second” – that strong security is the bedrock of maintaining and safeguarding peace – have widely been accepted as the absolute truth of international relations transcending all regions and countries. This was the case in Europe, which experienced a fragile and incomplete peace, namely ”peace in terror”. At that time, war was prevented through an unlimited nuclear arms race and, albeit vulnerable, peace was also maintained but nobody was sure how long it would last. Peace on the Korean Peninsula also existed in a similar fashion. People back then did not show enough interest in nor took action for peace per se as well as its elements. Rather, the idea of ”peace through security” – that peace is preserved through the absence of war contained by military means such as alliance, armaments and deterrence – had dominated their mindsets and thoughts. With a changing environment and rise of a new era in Europe, ”security through peace” gave birth to and fostered a new perception of ”harmony of security and peace” and, by extension, ”peace through peace”. However, the autonomy of peace has yet to be guaranteed on the Korean Peninsula as it suffered from division and war. The regime competition between South and North Korea, being accelerated by different political structures, has expanded and reproduced a mirror image effect in which the dichotomous thinking of good and evil when perceiving the other party is brought into relief. And at times, it has resulted in a hostile but mutually dependent relationship. Security has been regarded as an absolute good and the highest value on the Korean Peninsula, as structural division and the aftermath of war dealt a blow to this part of the world. That is why security has undeniably and undoubtedly served as a firm foundation of society, thus explaining why the peace we know was ”peace through security”.
NATURE OF SECURITY SYSTEM OF THE KOREAN PENINSULA
The importance of security on the divided Korean Peninsula cannot be emphasized enough as it is directly linked to my / your / our survival. Against this backdrop, it is imperative that we carefully ponder over what kind of security we should envision as well as what type of security system warrants the virtuous cycle of peace and security, being mindful that security and peace are indivisible values like two sides of the same coin, rather than focusing on ”peace through security”. In international relations, ”system” is a mechanism established for stably maintaining global order over a certain period. In other words, international system is a tangible and intangible order-maintaining mechanism designed by countries around the world so as to prevent war and ensure peace. Prime examples of this in modern international affairs are the Concert of Europe, Bismarck Alliance System, the Cold War and Balance of Power. And in some ways, the international system could also be seen as a political environment at a certain point in time that involves a) actors, b) types of interaction among actors, c) power distribution among actors and d) nonhuman elements that affect the actors (territory, resources, technology, weapons, etc.). Since the international system is inseparably related to international order, changes to the latter brought about a new kind of international system that corresponds to that shift. Below is the result when applying the international mechanism to the security system on the Korean Peninsula, which was forged by concerned parties of the Korean War in order to prevent another war as well as maintain peace. More specifically, the current security system in Korea is, namely, the Armistice Agreement. Under the Agreement reached in July 1953, Panmunjom; Demilitarized zone; Military Demarcation Line; the Military Armistice Commission (the Armistice Agreement); and South-North Joint Military Commission (the Basic Agreement between the South and the North); and UN Combined Forces Command are created and in operation. And this system has been reinforced by the US – ROK alliance as well as China – North Korea alliance. So far, peace on the Korean Peninsula has been sustained by the security system which manages the situation of the divided Korean Peninsula. Thus, the nature of peace on the Korean Peninsula is bound to be confined to a peace hinging on security.
ESTABLISHMENT OF SECURITY SYSTEM FOR PEACE
Despite new developments in the global environment where the Cold War derived from an ideological conflict collapsed; peace coexists with security; and the formula of security system for peace and peace for peace have evolved, security system still served as the only bulwark to safeguard peace on the peninsula. From December 1991 when the Basic Agreement between the South and the North was concluded, to date, a sustainable peace has not settled in Korea because the belief and thinking that peace through security can only maintain peace on the peninsula is deeply entrenched in our minds. Now is thus time for the people to acknowledge the inseparable value of peace and security; and discuss not ”peace through security” but ”security for peace”. The reason is that the establishment of a sustainable and long-lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula will only be possible when the public change their belief and the framework of ”security system for peace” is established. Then how can ”security for peace”, not ”peace through security”, be achieved? And how can ”peace for peace” settle in the peninsula? The logical solution to this question is simple. First is to establish ”a security system for peace”; and the second is, albeit more ideal than realistic, to help the public identify security with peace so that the equation of security system being equal to peace system becomes generalized. In view of the current security situation, and the fact that peace on the Korean Peninsula has been a peace through security, a more practical way is to turn the elements of the current security system into more peace-oriented ones. It means that the elements of the armistice system which only focus on management of division and prevention of war should be replaced and reorganized into more peace-supportive ones. This is also required in order to establish a permanent and solid peace regime on the Korean Peninsula as contained in Panmunjom Declaration which was announced following the inter-Korean summit on April 27. As for a grand journey toward achieving peace on the Korean Peninsula, the first phase should end up with establishing a peace-oriented security system by creating a virtuous cycle of denuclearization process and a long-lasting peace regime process. The reason is that the settlement of ”security system for peace” is the first step towards establishing a peace regime that we pursue; a cornerstone for guaranteeing a sustainable peace on the Korean Peninsula and advancing two Koreas in a peaceful and stable manner; and a solid base for an ever-lasting peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
1 This report is based on the personal opinion of the author and may differ from the official position of the Institute for National Security Strategy.
Professor of International Security Strategy Division, The Institute of National Security Strategy, Seoul, Republic of Korea
Professor of National Security Strategy Division, The Institute of National Security Strategy, Seoul, Republic of Korea