Seminar on the theme ‘Korean Unification Issue in the Changing Regional Dynamics’

The Embassy of the Republic of Korea in cooperation with Centre for East Asian Studies, School
of International Studies (SIS), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) held a Seminar on the theme
‘Korean Unification Issue in the Changing Regional Dynamics’. The purpose of the Seminar was
to share ideas with Indian academics, researchers, students, policy analysts and opinion leaders
on issues pertaining to Korean unification in a rapidly changing regional situation. The seminar
included a mix of lectures, discussions and Q&A session and was attended by over 100
Professor Srikanth Kondapalli, Chairperson, Centre for East Asian Studies, SIS, JNU, delivered
the welcome address and Dr. Jitendra Uttam, Centre for East Asian studies, presided over the
Making the inaugural remarks, Mr. Lee Hai-Kwang, Charge d Affaires at the Embassy of the
Republic of Korea, New Delhi appreciated the strong interest of Indian people in Korean
unification issue. He said that reunification of two Koreas is a humanitarian and sacred goal of
South Korea, involving great powers such as the U.S., Japan, China, Russia, having their own
national interest to serve, which some time are cooperating and some time confronting. Beyond
these four major powers, India is also emerging as fifth power with the potential to play
important role in facilitating Korean reunification. However, the primary concern of Korean
government at this moment is to lessen the tensions on the Korean peninsula and establish
enduring peace and the reunification will be the next natural course. In his inaugural remarks,
Prof. A.K. Pasha, Associate Dean, SIS, JNU echoed the same sentiments when he said that the
situation on the Korean peninsula is unnecessarily aggravated by external forces. Every time an
attempt is made for reunification, it is derailed by external forces. He further said that the policy
of sanction, isolation and regime change have so far proved futile and advocated that India
should use its weight in the emerging global scene to help establish lasting peace on the Korean
The two young professors Cho Young-chul, Chonbuk National University, South Korea and Paik
Woo-yeol, Yonsei University, South Korea made powerful presentations, giving a Korean
perspective on the reunification issue. In his presentation titled as Korea’s Reunification Issues in
the Changing Regional Dynamics, Prof. Cho underscored the need to view North Korea from a
perspective other than dominant western perspective so as to understand that country, its leaders
and the regime. He argued that a change in the regime is needed, however, any meaningful
change in North Korea should be done by North Korean people. He further said that the primary
need on the Korean peninsula is the establishment of peace and reunification can follow. He
added that South Korea does not desire North Korea’s collapse and does not want to work
towards unification through absorption. What it seeks is the establishment of peace and once
peace is established, unification will be realized naturally through agreement between South and
North Korea. This is also the approach of the Korean President Moon Jae-in. He cautioned that

South Korea should resist the false strategic choice of having to choose sides between Beijing
and Washington in a regional power competition. Prof. Paik in his presentation talked about
evolving Korea-India relations and argued that priorities and goals of Korean President Moon’s
Northeast Asia Plus Responsible Community and Modi’s Act East Policy converge, giving the
two countries solid grounds to work together to meet common security concerns. Elaborating
further, he said that in Modi’s Act East Policy South Korea can be a new security partner across
Asia. Since South Korea is a major partner of US-led security alliance, it is a natural partner for
India’s security scheme. Similarly, in President Moon’s Northeast Asia Plus Responsible
Community policy and, more specifically, New Southward policy India is an important pillar due
to its high economic growth and security preeminence in South Asia. Highlighting the imperative
of peace on the Korean peninsula, he said that President Moon’s priority is establishing peace on
the peninsula. As for the role of India in establishing peace on the Korean peninsula and eventual
unification, there is scope for two countries work together to achieve these goals.
Former Ambassador to Korea, Skand R. Tayal, Visiting Professor, Department of East Asian
Studies, University of Delhi and Dr. Sandip K. Mishra, Centre for East Asian Studies, SIS, JNU
were the discussants. Ambassador Tayal commented that the new regional order in the East Asia
is yet to emerge. He argued for a multi-polar order in the region. He pointed out that whenever
East Asia has been uni-polar, tragic consequence have followed. So, all countries of the region
should strive for multi-polarity in the region. He also commented that South Korean people seem
to have reconciled with nuclear North Korea and similarly reunification is now a distant goal. Dr.
Sandeep Mishra said that in India, Korean unification is viewed as bilateral problem between
two Koreas and a regional issue for four big powers. He further said that Except South Korea,
other involved parties are not keen for reunification. He proposed another approach to involve
countries like India, Pakistan, Indonesia, having diplomatic relations with both Koreas to play a
helpful role in reunification. The seminar ended with Q&A session in which the participants
showed keen interest in the issues of Korean unification.