Speech by Hon. Park Young-sun,
Former Chairperson and Floor Leader
of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, Republic of Korea
at the ICAPP Special Conference in Vladivostok on May 22, 2015
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
It is a great honor and pleasure to speak at the ICAPP Special Conference on Regional Economic Cooperation, with a special topic on “Russia for Asia,” on behalf of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, which is the main opposition party in the Republic of Korea.
First of all, I’d like to extend my most sincere thanks to the United Russia Party and the government of the Primorskiy Region for co-hosting this very important and timely conference. It is significant, and symbolic as well, to hold this meeting in Vladivostok, which recently has become one of the main centers for regional economic integration in northeast Asia.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the ICAPP on its strong and steady development in recent years. The ICAPP has now become the main political forum in Asia where all political parties can freely gather together and seek their common strategy to build an Asian community regardless of their ideological orientation. My party will continue to render its strong support for the future activities of the ICAPP.
Although my party is in the opposition, we support the policy direction of the “Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative” of the current government of the Republic of Korea. In particular, we support its efforts to build a “multilateral framework for the stable management of elements of discord” and to replace “a structure of conflict and discord in the region.” And we sincerely hope that this initiative will bring fruitful results and contribute to opening a new path of cooperation in the region as it purports to.
In fact, this policy traces its roots to former President Roh Moo-Hyun’s policy of peace and prosperity whose vision descended from former President Kim Dae-jung’s engagement policy, which helped promote reconciliation and cooperation between the two Koreas and among countries in the region.
We believe that no tangible outcome can be expected from any initiative for peace and cooperation on the Korean peninsula and in the region without active engagement of the DPRK in the process. We believe that, in order for such policy to succeed, the DPRK’s active and constructive participation is crucial. It can only be achieved by prolonged efforts to improve inter-Korean relations through dialogue and cooperation under the principles of mutual respect and openness. Unfortunately, however, meaningful dialogue between the two Koreas has been suspended since 2008 when my party handed over the government to the current ruling party.
Economic cooperation between the South and the North will kick-start a new growth engine for economies of not only two Koreas but also other countries in the region, and expand their commercial horizons. Gaesung Industrial Complex, which was launched in 2004 is a good example.
More than 50 thousand workers from the North are working with 120 South Korean companies. They together produce goods worth a half billion U.S. dollars annually. This potent combination of Southern capital and technology with Northern discipline and diligence produce has generated more than 10 billion dollars in trade since it began production in 2006. Yet it could have achieved much more. As originally conceived, Gaesung would have hosted twice the current number of South Korean companies by 2007. Planned expansion also envisaged as many as 700 thousand Northern workers by 2012.
We hope that similar industrial parks will be established in other parts of North Korea. We also hope that tourism projects will be resumed soon to further increase exchange of visitors across the Demilitarized Zone of the Korean peninsula.
There are other possibilities to promote regional economic integration in northeast Asia, such as South Korea’s participation in constructing natural gas pipelines from Russia to South Korea via North Korea, and linking a trans-Korean railway with Russia’s trans-Siberian railway. We support the proposal to develop North Korea’s northeastern city of Rajin into a logistics hub and link it with Russia’s Khasan through the railway system. These projects will benefit all countries in the region.
We welcome and appreciate the recent efforts and initiatives by the Russian government to bring two parts of Korea together under these joint projects. South Korea can take advantage of traditional bond of cooperation between Russia and North Korea to smooth the way for regional economic integration and to improve inter-Korean relations. And we hope that the leaders of both sides will capitalize on this opportunity with a forward-looking vision.
In this regard, my delegation is particularly encouraged by participation by distinguished representatives of the Worker’s Party of the DPRK in this conference. And we are very much looking forward to the opportunities to exchange our views with them on how to further promote our cooperation toward our common goal.
Before concluding, I would like to share with you my thought on another important factor which currently defines the diplomatic environment in northeast Asian region.
Despite the growing economic interdependence among the countries in the region, a momentum for closer cooperation among countries has not been fully recovered due to lingering sources of conflict over historical and territorial issues. Besides, the northeast Asian region accounts for more than one fifth of the global economy and is now assuming ever greater role in the world. And we face many common challenges, such as climate change, energy crisis, natural disasters, and nuclear safety, which require shared imagination and joint strategies.
As U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “Northeast Asia remains the crucial missing link in U.N. engagement with regional or sub-regional organizations under the U.N. Charter.” We hope that the leaders in the region will find ways to overcome their differences over the issues of the past, and move on to develop a new framework of cooperation to fully maximize upon the potential for the development of the region with a more future-oriented and collaborative mindset.
In this regard, we welcome and support the launching of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, AIIB, initiated by China. We are confident that the AIIB will not only contribute to regional economic development by providing adequate and timely financial service, but also promote global financial stability by complementing other existing international institutions.
Thank you very much for your attention.