* Date : 2018-12-26
Spring on the Korean Peninsula
On January 1, 2018, in his New Year speech, Chairman Kim Jong-un hinted at North Korea's participation in the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. This sudden show of willingness to start a series of inter-Korean talks came as a surprise, given that up until a couple of months ago, North Korea had been heightening tensions on the Peninsula through its missile launch tests and other provocative actions.
From the joint entrance made by the two sides at the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Olympics under a Korean Peninsula flag to three separate inter-Korean summits, the South and North eagerly marched towards peace in 2018. A warm breeze between the two was beginning to blow away the seemingly endless winter.
"Today, Chairman Kim and I confirmed the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula."
- President Moon Jae-in at the April 27 Panmunjom Summit -
The key to denuclearization
"Kim Jong-un is very pro-market. His line is simple: It's glorious to get rich."
- Andrei Lankov, Professor of History at Kookmin University -
Jin Cheon-kyu, a journalist who recently visited the North, was greatly impressed by countless Pyongyang residents using smartphones and department stores that were filled with "Joseon" (i.e., local) products. North Korea has been changing. A market economy was rapidly taking root, and a handful of up-and-coming capitalists were emerging.
Alas, its focus on economic growth is being hindered by the sanctions placed against it. It is currently subject to the harshest forms of sanctions in the world, ranging from a limited supply of oil to a ban on export of raw materials.
However, the U.S., the country that holds the key, shows no signs of budging. It insists that any lifting of sanctions must be preceded by specific courses of action for denuclearization, while North Korea is firm in its position that no further actions will be taken until the sanctions are lifted.
The North Korea-U.S. summit has reached an impasse, and progress for denuclearization is slowing down. Can this deadlock be broken?
Searching for the key to peace
"Let's meet again in good health. Please don't die before reunification."
- A participant at the inter-Korean family reunion event -
The negotiations for denuclearization have come to a standstill. As long as the sanctions against North Korea remain in effect, any form of inter-Korean economic cooperation is impossible.
However, signs of spring can already be seen among the people. From the Pyongyang naengmyeon boom to the resumed family reunions and sports events such as the inter-Korean workers' football competition, small yet effective exchanges are bringing the two Koreas closer together.
Experts are also saying that emphasis should be placed on these "civilian exchanges." In "Journey Towards Peace on the Korean Peninsula in 2018," we hope to analyze the current state of inter-Korean relations and search for solutions that can bring everlasting peace to the Korean Peninsula.