What is peace? Is peace recognized as the universal goal of mankind compatible with Korea's national interests? Can we work for peace for our national interests? We often think that peace and national interests are opposite concepts. People who advocate peace are often considered leftists, blindly pursuing universal values, while those who emphasize national interests tend to be on the right and we divide society into two camps. A university professor gives us these thoughts on the situation in Korea in the Peace Weekly 'Current Diagnosis' column.
International politics and national interest is a zero-sum game between nations. Put simply the expansion of national interest based on the economic and military power of one country cannot coexist with the national interest of another country. In other words, when one country grows stronger another gets weaker. It is not a win/win situation.
According to this logic, it is unlikely that a universal concept of peace and a nation-centered national interest can be combined without conflict. There is the possibility of an abnormal situation where the greater power gives peace to a weaker country, or where they have allied with the stronger power to make peace possible.
For this reason, South Korea's aid to North Korea is often criticized as a naive pursuit of peace that misunderstands reality. Regarded often as a mistake of amateur liberals, criticized for the expansion of the North Korean regime, and ignorant of international politics.
But national interests and peace can both be pursued as a strategy in complementary relationships. The UK and Northern European countries have redefined their national interests in a universal sense in which their own interests are expanded in helping to solve global problems. The concept of peace can also be reexamined as an asset in solving problems based on Korea's international political peculiarities.
Universal national interests together with strategic peace interests are more likely to provide a wider range of communication, provide constructive solutions, and legitimacy with the international community than putting the national interest first.
Centering everything narrowly on the national interest is not conducive to the peace process pursued by Korea; the wider the scope of Korea's national interests the wider the opportunities for international norms and principles to be linked to peacebuilding on the Korean peninsula.
In order to plan and promote such universal national interests, the obstacles to peacebuilding on the Korean Peninsula should be made into strategic assets, and policy emphasizing that peace on the Korean peninsula is directly related to peace in East Asia and the global village.
Therefore, it is in the national interests of the two Koreas, and furthermore, the international community, that the special circumstances of the Korean peninsula, such as sanctions, denuclearization, and peace treaty between North Korea and North Korea should lead to peace on the Korean peninsula. It is time for a social consensus to ensure that strategic peace and universal national interest are the foundation of Korea's foreign policy and public diplomacy.