I am honored to speak today at this event about the reunification of Korea. I would like to give my special thanks to President Shin WooSeung and members of the 16th UK Council of Democratic Peaceful Unification, and everyone attending this event. Also, I would like to express sincere gratitude towards the British war veterans who fought in the Korean War.

 

Year 2015 marks 70 years since the division of the Korean peninsula immediately after decolonization.

Today, I am here not to dwell in the 70 years of painful history, but to provide a future-oriented vision of hope in unification. In the next twenty minutes I will talk about the task of social integration as a precedent to peaceful reunification.

 

Both North and South Korea wish for reunification. Nevertheless, the two Koreas remain divided after 70 years. How can this be?

 

There are many reasons. It is because unification means different things for North and South Korea. Moreover, the two governments take advantage of unification as a political slogan, not to mention young generations who fear the aftermaths of unification. Finally, the two Koreas have not agreed on the methodologies of unification, which is complicated by the interest relations of neighboring countries.

 

However, these concerns are only superficial, and can be overcome by strengthening the internal need for reunification.

 

I believe that the internal need for reunification is sprouted by social integration.

 

The process of unification can be summarized into the preparation stage, transition stage, and the completion stage. In all of these stages, social integration plays an integral part. In fact, unification as a whole can be seen as a process of social integration.

 

In the past, unification, for the most part, meant territorial reunification, focusing on the political and economic integration.

 

However, I believe that real unification is only completed when the two societies can be integrated. Now, we need to look beyond territorial, political, or economic integration.

 

The emphasis should be on social integration. Unification studies should also be extended to social integration.

 

Forming a common identity between the two Koreas is essential in the initial phase of social integration. Without a common identity, and bond a national, social integration is impossible.

Cooperation needs to be based on mutual understanding and common identity. Without this, unification talks will only be an armchair argument.

 

Next is overcoming conflict. I do not mean extinguish it altogether. As long as individuals are capable of rational thinking, conflict in any kind of society is unavoidable. I mean that conflict resolution should be a systematic and productive process that aids social development.

The success and failure of social integration relies on the management of social conflict.

 

Also, social integration should adhere to ‘consensual democracy’ rather than ‘majoritarian democracy’. Majoritarian democracy can lead to considerable inequalities. Under the majoritarian principle, the weak have to suffer from the decisions of the majority, creating social hierarchy. On the other hand, consensual democracy emphasizes consent over disagreement, inclusion over exclusion, and extension of decision making rights than making do with a close majority.

 

Education plays a vitalizing role in unification. Education enables equal opportunity, promotes common identity, and invigorates society. Unification that is not supported by proper education will only be temporary.

 

Lastly, there needs to be strong legal measures against forces that hinder unification. Obstructers exist in any kind of society. They could be from the outside, or they could be from within. Intentionally or unintentionally, opposing forces cause problems for social integration, in their pursuit of individual political, economic, or social interests. Therefore, strong measures should be made to prevent them from putting down roots, and should be resisted through education.

 

In preparation for reunification, social integration among South Koreans is first and foremost, as South Korea should lead unification rather than North Korea. Unfortunately, South Korean society is far from integrated. Regional, generational, factional conflicts prevail.

 

Also, South Koreans need to embrace North Koreans as their own. The reality is, the 27 thousand North Koreans living in South remain isolated. Apart from their economic needs, the defectors have a hard time feeling a sense of belonging in the South Korean society. As South Korea has the duty to lead the unification, it needs to internalize the idea of a common identity, and embracement of North Koreans.

 

In this regard, I believe that the New Malden Korean community is one step ahead of domestic North Korean community. Unlike in South Korea, the Koreans living in New Malden face no territorial demarcation line, ideological differences, and extreme population difference between North and South Koreans. As a result, the overseas South Koreans and North Korean defectors actively interact, and help one another. Although it is not perfect, I am proud to say that New Malden is an exemplary model for social integration. Even unification experts in South Korea have given it a friendly name New Maldong(뉴몰동) to refer to it as the unification town.

 

Next, South Koreans politics should finalize and reach consensus on the unification method. There are many opinions from federation, confederation, to absorbing unification, but as a person who has lived both in the North and South, I believe in unification by absorption and a united federal Korea. Unification by absorption and federal Korea is a topic that requires a separate chapter, but I will keep it short due to time constraints.

 

The undeniable truth backed by North Korean defectors including myself is that there can be no peaceful reunification so long as the current Kim regime prevails. Dictators do not want to compromise their power. They only take advantage of ‘unification’ as a political slogan.

 

Therefore, I dare say that unification should be done as a unification by absorption by the South Korean government, and form a federal government that recognizes separate systems.

 

Lastly, the North and South Koreans need to better understand each other. In order to do so, not only does South Koreans need to make efforts, but North Koreans also need to try to understand the South Korean and international society. For that, North Korea needs to have access to outside information. The most significant way that Britain can contribute is by launching a Korean BBC program into North Korea.

 

Moreover, there needs to be active communication with the North Korean defectors to understand the values, lives, culture, and education status of North Koreans.

 

I have always emphasized that the objects of reunification are not the North Korean regime but its people. All conflicts result from ignorance of each other, which only produces misunderstandings. In order to understand the North Korean people, we need to hear from the North Korean defectors. Conversation is key. Exchanges between North and South Koreans will lay the foundation for Korean social integration, and consequently, reunification.

 

Therefore, I believe conversation is the beginning of social integration, and ultimately peaceful unification. With this, I would like to end my speech.

 

Thank you very much.

 

2015.2.14. Mr. Kim Joo-Il's Speech for UK Council of Democratic Peaceful Unification, and British war veterans who fought in the Korean War.