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Nuclear Security Crisis in the Korean Peninsula
-Korean-American Perspective-


Moon J. Pak, M.D., Ph.D.
Steering Committee
Korean-American league


For Korean-Americans, crisis in the Korean peninsula causes a grave personal concern mainly because the majority of them are first generation immigrants with close family ties in the peninsula. Perhaps more importantly, is their impassioned love of the country of Korea, to be found among all the Koreans, South, North and Overseas. (" –wrapped in an overriding sense of vulnerability and by virtue of their intense devotion to self-sufficiency, sovereignty, and self-defense as the touchstone for all rhetoric and policy–"exact words used by the Perry Report–October, 1999, describing North Korea).

Most Korean-Americans feel that the crisis, including the current one, between the United States and North Korea stems from the lack of understanding of the cultural difference between the two countries; the "Might is Right" attitude of the US; and the defiant North Korean stance based on self-determination and her near-paranoiac security concerns.

Most Korean-Americans also believe that the problems in the Korean peninsula is eminently solvable, because unlike problems in many other parts of the world, in the Korean peninsula, there is no ethnic differences, religious rifts or clash between civilizational paradigms.

Therefore, from the vantage point of Korean-American, we offer the following objective analysis of the current crisis and suggest some immediate and long term recommendations to achieve peace in the country of our origin.

The Current Crisis Development

The Japanese premier Junichiro Koizumi's visit to Pyongyang this September resulted in a surprising admission by the North Korea that they indeed committed the kidnaping of 13 Japanese citizens in 1970's, five of whom are still alive and residing in that country. In addition, Koizumi's urging to both North Korea and United States to begin engage in a meaningful dialogue resulted in a visit to Pyongyang by the US team led by a special envoy, assistant secretary of State, James A. Kelly, in October 3-5, the first formal diplomatic contact between the Bush administration and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the DPRK ( North Korea). Unfortunately however to those who have been ardently hoping for the improved relation between the two countries, the meeting actually had an effect of further complicating already strained relation between the two countries. North Korea criticized the Kelly, et al's "high handed and arrogant" approach and Kelly stated that the meeting entailed a useful exchange of each other's position, a diplomatic expression indicating non-progress. On October 16, the White House announced that during the Kelly's Pyongyang meeting, North Korea's counterpart, vice minister of their Foreign Ministry, Kang, Sok Joo had admitted, to the astonishment of the Kelly. et al, the presence of uranium enrichment capability in his country.

These seemingly unrelated revelations by the North Korea instantly, helped to portray the country and its leader befitting the description of being the "evil" and plunged the Korean peninsula, once again, into "nuclear crisis" as it was in 1993-‘94, when the DPRK threatened withdraw from the NPT (Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty), when their possession of plutonium from the fuel rods was made known.

There is a segment of American population, numbering over 1.5 million who are increasingly concerned by this ominous development and hope fervently that the peace be maintained in that part of the world, and that is the Korean-Americans. The majority of Korean-Americans are relatively recent immigrants and without exception maintain close family ties in both North and South Koreas. Those old enough to have experienced the Korean war still have vivid memories of war's devastation. Many of them, either individuals or representing an organization have often traveled to North Korea to explore the possibility, through humanitarian, religious, medical scientific dialogues, to turn hostility and distrust to mutual understanding, healing and reconciliation. They travel as Americans and stand neutral to the differing political ideologies between the DPRK, the ROK and the US. However, by approaching issues from the perspective of common cultural background, and making sincere effort to understand, they have been able to develop excellent working relationships with the DPRK authority, based on mutual trust and respect.

Thus, from this somewhat unique and objective stance, and with understandably passionate feelings on the current "crisis", we offer the following observations and recommendations with hope that it will help our policy planners in Washington in the formulation of a Korean peninsula policy that is just, compassionate and conducive to the maintenance of lasting peace.

Japanese Kidnap Issue

This was an unconscionable criminal act. The perpetrator must be punished and all the details must be made public. The circumstance surrounding the demise of the every deceased victim must be revealed to the family. Adequate compensation must be made by the government of the DPRK to the family of the deceased as well as to those five still alive. Korean-American community offers deep sympathy to those Japanese victims and their family. We take this opportunity to announce a plan to initiate a fund raising campaign to provide a compensation to the victims as a token of our regret and apologies.

However, we also strongly believe that the Japanese people and the government must not let this issue deter the negotiation process for normalization of formal relationships between the two countries and also the reparation issue. We recommend strongly that the Japanese not defer from discharging their financial commitment in support of the KEDO Project (Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization). The Korean-American community strongly believes that the people of Japan, including the grieving families of those victims, its government, and the negotiators at the forthcoming bilateral meeting will be well served to recall that during the last war the Japanese forcibly removed and detained over 28,000 Koreans in Sakhalin to work as forced laborers in their coal mines and failed to help repatriate them to their home country at the end of the war. Also that the Japanese forcibly removed, detained and sexually enslaved over 8,000 Korean young women, most of whose remains are left unknown to this date in the wind-swept plains of Manchuria or jungles of Southeast Asia. And finally, that the Japanese government participated in a collusive plan to depart over 90,000 Koreans residing in Japan to North Korea between 1959 and 1984, profusely describing the country of North Korea as their "promised land" and depriving their final chance of choice at the last point of departure, the harbor of Niigata.

Nuclear Weapons Violation Issue

The DPRK's admission that they are in possession of uranium enrichment capability may have stunned the Bush administration but it is worth noting that the matter of fact statement was made by vice-minister Kang, Sok Joo with no apparent emotion of remorse. Therein lies the difference of perception between the US and the DPRK; the DPRK obviously consider their action as their natural response to what they consider to be the United State's non-compliance of the 1994 Geneva Agreed Framework.

Korean-Americans generally believe that this act by the DPRK is in violation of the principal spirit of the 1994 Agreed Framework, not-with-standing the argument that the enrichment may not be the weapons grade, i.e., U235 (95%) that it could be for reactor grade, i.e., U235 (3%) which is for a peaceful use; or the argument that although the 1994 Agreed Framework is cross-referenced to the 1992 Korean Peninsula Denuclearization Declaration, it only covers the weaponization of plutonium, thus the uranium enrichment activity is not within the realm of the Accord.

The collapse of the USSR and its Eastern European allies deprived the DPRK of energy source, trading partners, and foreign investment. Consecutive years of natural disasters ruined its agricultural output. US sanctions and embargoes had severe restrictive effect on trade.

Ever-increasing military outlay of the South Korea combined with the presence in the peninsula, of 37,000 US troops backed by the world's largest, nuclear superpower, the United States, that repeatedly belittles its sovereignty and constantly reminds its vulnerability in the face of the US nuclear ability in the strategic nuclear weapons stationed in South Korea (until its removal in 1992), and the carrier-based nuclear bombers in the Eastern Sea (Sea of Japan), as well as the US based nuclear ICBM's, had contributed to the DPRK's legitimate security concerns, and led to their interest in acquiring the nuclear weapons, mainly for the purpose of gaining leverage against these external threats, in much the same context as in the cases of, Israel and Pakistan.

The so called, Geneva 1994 Agreed Framework was established and signed by the two countries basically in this backdrop. It contains a pledge by the DPRK not to pursue its ongoing work to process the spent fuel rods from their existing graphite nuclear reactors to obtain the weapons grade plutonium from which they can fashion a nuclear bomb; subject themselves to the continuous, ongoing, IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) surveillance inspection (the team is stationed in North Korea), and an additional comprehensive inspection by the agency just prior to the installation of the nuclear reactor equipment for the two LWR's (Light Water Nuclear Reactor)-see below; and actually more importantly, both countries agreed to maintain the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula (1992 Declaration between the two Koreas) and also cessation of nuclear threat by the US (since US would be the only nuclear power after the Agreement). The fact that the DPRK has been in full compliance with this part of the Agreement has been certified by our CIA until recently, when their uranium enrichment effort became an issue.

In exchange for these commitment by the North Korea, the US agreed to meet the following obligations, which it failed to discharge faithfully.

To build two light water reactors to meet the energy need of the DPRK. This would obviate the need to continue working on their graphite reactors that produce plutonium. The Agreement specifies that the first reactor will begin to produce 1,000 MW of electricity by the year 2003, and second reactor to follow a year later. This combined energy production of 2,000 MW by the year 2004 was expected to fuel DPRK's economic recovery. The US has failed to deliver this pledge. After eight years of work, the KEDO, the administrative organization that oversees this project headed by the US, predicts the delay of some four to five years, until electricity could flow out of the LWR! It is important to note that the funding for the project is nearly completely provided by the South Korea and Japan, and to a significant extent the needed technology comes from South Korea, and there had not been any delay from these countries in the discharge of their commitments. Therefore, the LWR project does not constitute a US "Reward" for a DPRK's "Bad Behavior", as described by some quarters in the US.

The provision of 500,000 tons of heavy oil per year by the US. This was meant to provide energy until the LWR's came on line. This provision was subsequently made conditional, by the US Congress, on the presentation of annual certification by the US administration to the Congress that the DPRK is meeting their part of the bargain, a move patently insulting to the DPRK. Additionally this injects an element of uncertainty to what the DPRK considers as a firm US treaty obligation, just as the pledge for nuclear abrogation is such for them. It is important to note that the quality grade of the oil that had been shipped to Pyongyang had been the lowest, causing problem in the boiler efficiency of their power plants.

Normalization of the relation and lifting of the sanctions and embargo. These are also mentioned in the Agreement although no firm time frame is specified. Nothing along this line has been pursued by the US. On the contrary, President Bush's North Korea policy has been consistently characterized by culturally insensitive anti-DPRK rhetoric culminating in President Bush's, now famous "Axis of Evil" speech early this year. Existing de'tente between the two Koreas was never warmly acknowledged with the effect of building up the rank of those in South Korea who are increasingly doubtful of US intentions. The lifting of the sanctions and embargo that had been in effect for more than a half of century since the onset of the Korean war causing sever restrictions on the DPRK economy and unmeasurable hardship to its people are never even discussed by the US administration.

Denuclearization of the peninsula and cessation of hostility between the two countries. With regard to this part of the Agreement, again, US actions have consistently run counter to the spirit of the Accord. In spite of moderation by the DPRK in its missile testing experiment, the North Korea has been repeatedly presented as a rai'son de'tre for the development of US NMD System (National Missile Defense) and US abrogation of the ABM (Anti- Ballistic Missile Treaty) The concept of the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and abrogation of the use of it in the peninsula was administered a grave blow by the Bush administration by revelation of a plan called, "Nuclear Posture Review", in which the US use of the nuclear weapons against, so called "rogue states" not armed with such weapons is not to be ruled out. This is an open violation of the spirit of the Agreement.

Recommendation by Korean-Americans

Resolution of the current problem in the Korean peninsula by military action by any of the parties is unconscionable. Any attack on the DPRK, including so-called surgical bombing of any facility, even a pin point dimension in the DPRK will invite an immediate all-out, full force DPRK retaliation on not only the South Korea, but also Japan and assuredly the US forces stationed in Korea. This would completely devastate the South Korean economic infrastructure and result in millions of casualties. Benign neglect of the DPRK is no longer an option, since it will lead her to nuclear route due to her perceived security concerns. Engagement, dialogue and negotiation among all parties involved is the only viable option. Therefore, Korean-Americans offer following set of recommendations:

Uphold and enforce the current 1994 Agreed Framework. If implemented faithfully by both sides, it has all the elements needed for the satisfactory peaceful coexistence. US must expedite the building of the two LWR . Provide the DPRK with a precise, realistic timetable toward their completion. In the interim, provide the DPRK with 2,000MW equivalent energy source per year beginning 2003, to assist with her plans for infrastructure rebuilding. Continue with the 500,000 ton per year heavy oil aid as delineated in the Agreement. US may prepare a timetable for the normalization of the relationship with the DPRK, which include gradual lifting of sanctions and embargo. This may be "cross-indexed" with a DPRK timetable for dismantling not only the uranium enrichment facility, but also the plutonium storage including the weapons if any, and biological, chemical and missile technology, except for the obvious scientific and technological enterprises.

Non-Aggression Pact should be signed between the US-South Korea and the DPRK. When a complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula has been achieved as well as normalization of relations with the US and lifting of US sanctions as part of the Agreement, nothing should stand in the way of the non-aggression pact, which will alleviate the security concerns of the DPRK

Establish as soon as possible the US Liaison Office in Pyongyang. Instead of waiting for the establishment of the formal diplomatic relation, and instead of having an ad hoc visiting envoy, the US should have the presence of a US government in Pyongyang on a permanent basis. It would enable both sides to fine tune relationships on a continued basis. The office should be manned by a high senior level presidential appointee, an individual whose status is such that he may be received by North Korea's highest leadership with confidence and respect..

Establish a Study Group composed of representatives of six countries, US, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia. This group would study a long term plan for the Korean peninsula with goals toward; reunification, disarmament, economic development and an option for a permanent neutrality. (see http://www.ko-amleague.org.)

Moon J. Pak, M.D., Ph.D.
Chairman, Steering Committee
Korean-American League (KAL)

US-DPRK Medical Science Exchange Committee (UDMEDEX)

811 Oakwood Dr. # 201, Rochester, MI 48307
(P)248-656-0177, (F) 248-656-0249, moonjpak@cs.com

CC Mr. Moo-Jae Pak, Secretary, KAL
Rev. Michael S. Hahm, President, Korean American National Coordinating Council (KANCC)
Rev. Kil Sang Yoon, Chairman, Midwest Chapter, KANCC
Rev. Syngman Rhee, President, Korean American Political Action Committee