Johan Galtung Is Awarded the Korean Peace Prize
EDITORIAL, 1 November 2010
by Prof. Dietrich Fischer, Nov 1 2010 – TRANSCEND Media Service
Johan Galtung, born in Oslo, Norway, on 24 October 1930 has been awarded the Korean DMZ Peace Prize for 2010, “for his long-lasting work for world peace and Korean reunification”, as the selection committee stated. The award ceremony will take place in Seoul on December 7, 2010. DMZ stands for De-Militarized Zone, as a Zone of Peace.
Galtung, recognized worldwide as founder of the academic discipline of peace studies, has worked persistently for nearly four decades to promote peace on the Korean peninsula. Since 1972, he has visited Korea about 25 times, including two visits to North Korea in 1989 and 2000. He has also held numerous dialogues abroad with diplomats from both South and North Korea. He advised South Korean president Kim Dae Jung, whose “sunshine policy” helped improve relations between North and South Korea.
Based on published speeches that Galtung held in North and South Korea (see www.transcend.org/tup), the following key elements of his analysis and peace proposals emerge.
He emphasizes the need for both negative peace–the absence of violence– and positive peace–cooperation for mutual and equal benefit. Cooperation presupposes the absence of violence, what requires solution of the underlying conflict. Violence is to conflict like smoke to fire. To get rid of the smoke, it is necessary to extinguish the fire. If the conflict is not solved, cooperation will not last. Of course, both efforts can be pursued simultaneously.
The West portrays the root of the conflict as North Korea’s attack against the South in 1950, at the start of the Korean War that lasted until 1953, and has not yet been ended with a peace treaty. This was the first time since 1812 that the US has not won a war, and the US has not yet forgiven North Korea. But we must not forget the 1905 Taft-Katsura Memorandum about zones of interest, giving to the USA the Philippines and to Japan Korea; Japanese colonial occupation of Korea 1910-1945; the partition of Korea in 1945; and the 1948 Jeju uprising against American occupation, which was brutally suppressed by South Korean troops under US command.
True, there are human rights violations in North Korea, but the same occurred in the South during military dictatorship. South Korea has changed. So will North Korea, Galtung expects, following the paths of China and Vietnam, who have adopted a form of capitalism with rapid economic growth under control of the communist party.
Galtung does not foresee a Korean unification similar to the German unification (collapse of the regime in the East, followed by absorption by the West), nor similar to how Vietnam was unified (conquest of the South by the North). Neither of those two processes is peaceful. Peace requires equality, not domination of one side by the other. He anticipates, and advocates, a process similar to the formation of the European Union, with states beginning with functional cooperation (the European Coal and Steel Union of 1951), and gradually closer cooperation and joint institutions.
Another model is the unification of Austria, after it was divided into four occupations zones from 1945-1955: withdrawal of all foreign troops, and formation of a single neutral state.
In Korea, that process will probably take longer. The people of Korea should be united, the sooner the better, through free travel and economic cooperation between North and South. But it is not likely that one of the two states will simply disappear. The Koreans, in both North and South, have great pride. More desirable is a gradual process of cooperation on concrete issues of mutual benefit (like reopening the rail link between North and South that was cut in 1950), followed by the formation of a lose confederation of two states, developing into a federation with a center for financial, foreign policy and military matters and a periphery of the two Koreas retaining many of their present characteristics. This may ultimately result in a unitary, neutral state, if the Korean people so wish.
Galtung sees potential in an association of the mahayana buddhist countries, which have a common culture: North and South Korea, China (including Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan), Japan and Vietnam. Such an association could produce goods of Japanese and South Korean quality, at prices of China, Vietnam and North Korea.
If the Soviet Union had adopted what in China is now called “capi-communism”, it might have survived. But it was too much in the grip of Western dualism, that there can be only one correct way. East Asian countries understand that there can be many truths, and they choose the best from several schools of thought, including buddhism, confucianism, daoism and christianity. Thus they can also combine socialism and capitalism.
The demilitarized zone, now a line of separation, could become a place of encounter, of dialogues, trade, cooperation. A highway and rapid rail link, with a hydrofoil (maybe later a tunnel) connecting Tokyo-Seoul-Pyongyang-Beijing-Hong Kong-Chengdu-Ho Chi Minh City and Beijing via Siberia with Western Europe could give rise to phenomenal economic activity.
The main conflict is not between North and South Korea, but between North Korea and the USA, over a peace treaty and normalization of diplomatic relations, which the USA has so far refused. It is understandable that North Korea seeks a nuclear deterrent, as long as the USA stations nuclear weapons in South Korea, and refuses North Korea’s request for a mutual non-aggression treaty. If the US signs such a treaty, helps North Korea economically, and normalizes diplomatic relations, North Korea’s urge to possess nuclear weapons will lose its basis. In a similar way, when Libya was no longer treated as a pariah state, it gave up its nuclear weapons ambitions.
Galtung also proposes an open-ended Conference for Security and Cooperation for North-East Asia, with all parties at the table and all issues on the table (analogous to the 1972-75 Helsinki Conference, which prepared the end of the Cold War in Europe). This conference could aim at an organization to handle security and cooperation problems as they arise, with the Korean peninsula participating as two states or one confederation.
Galtung pointed out that the Koreans, like most others involved in a conflict (in the Middle East, in ex-Yugoslavia, in the two Germanies during the Cold War) are totally absorbed with their own conflict. They could learn much by studying how other conflicts have been solved. Galtung’s broad knowledge of numerous conflicts, having mediated in over one hundred international conflicts around the world, has helped him see solutions that others have overlooked.
With his tireless efforts to promote peace, not only in Korea, but throughout the world, having helped avoid several wars, he has amply deserved the Korean DMZ Peace Prize.
Prof. Dietrich Fischer is Academic Director of the World Peace Academy in Basel, Switzerland.
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 3.0 United States License.
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