On April 27th, a historic event took place in South Korea. The leaders of the two Koreas met to agree on the end of the war and North’s CVID (Complete, Verifiable, Irreversible, Dismantlement). Looking at past inter-Korean summits, the meetings between the leaders of the two Koreas were held mostly in North. And after the meeting, unlike the agreement, the two Koreas once again engaged in a search quest. The summit, however, not only resulted in the CVID of the North, which the world had wanted, but also led to an agreement on ending the Korean War. Furthermore, both leaders promised continued exchanges and communication between the two Koreas. The world celebrated a peaceful and successful summit, unification was supported, and attention was given to how the two Koreas will interact and communicate in the future.
However, even in a peaceful atmosphere, there are voices of concern. The Korean and foreign media are paying attention to two things very closely. One is North Korea's CVID. And the other is whether the South and North will be able to communicate and interact in the future. The North’s leader wants communication and interaction with the South too, however, if they have to discuss the defector issue and North Korea’s human rights abuses, exchanges and communication can become more difficult. The North’s human rights problem is very serious, more so than many other countries. Furthermore, the South’s society have a bad perception about North Korea.
Defectors and human rights issues are not something that can be solved in a short time. The UN announced recommendations to the North, because North Korea continues to suppress human rights. Recently, the United Nations stopped all aid to North Korea. According to many defectors’ testimonies, the North still has a social stratum where average people don’t have an opportunity for education. Such a problem is likely to become an obstacle when the two Koreas exchange. If the North Koreans who are not properly educated can not communicate with the South, it will cause misunderstanding because of different basic habits of life and culture. Communication and exchange are about accepting culture and creating an environment to live with.
Currently North Korea is strictly dealing with the issue of defectors. In March, there was an order to shoot defectors. It was not uncommon for defectors caught in China to be repatriated and tortured. It is highly contradictory to deal with the defector issue in a semi-humanitarian manner while expanding exchanges with the South at the same time. Exchange and communication are possible with free movement. And these also can only be achieved if North Korea has the appearance of a normal country that does not commit anti-human acts. If the defectors are dealt with through abuse and torture, human rights groups in South Korea and many other countries are likely to protest against the issue by opposing continued exchanges and communication with North Korea.
Another problem is South Korea’s view of defectors from North Korea. The number of defectors settling in the South is on the rise but unfortunately programs for North Korean defectors are small or nonexistent. South Koreans are showing their resistance to defectors without filtering. There is an organization belonging to the Unification Ministry called Hana Won, but there are limits to the extent that many defectors can’t be directly held responsible after the basic education of defectors. Due to the prejudice of a dictatorial state, the public can't easily open their minds to North Koreans. If negative prejudices and views toward them continue, defectors can experience confusion of identity, and the relationship between the South and the North could become worse than it is now.
It may be premature to express such concerns about what might happen after peace talks, but everything needs to be prepared. The 70 years of national division changed many things between the South and the North. Both Koreas must feel a need for communication and understanding of each others culture for a peaceful coexistence. North Korea still has a lot to change. Dealing with human rights abuses and the defector problem must be a top priority for North Korea. These issues undermine human dignity and take away educational opportunities. If these problems persist, it is likely to create negative public opinion in South Korea. Therefore, the North should work to solve this problem in the near future. And they also must announce a new plan about human rights to the international community. In addition, South Korea should be prepared to live with North Korea. It is important that our government build a systematic and practical system for our public and North Koreans.
Communication and exchange may seem easy for one race who uses the same language, but the division time of 70 years is a long time. When North Korea changes its attitude and answers positively to the international community and South Korea, we must be prepared for future and continue communication for a peaceful reunification. The meeting on April 27th should not only be regarded as a historical event, but as an opportunity for the two Koreas to grow together in the future.