By Jose C. De Venecia Jr.
Let me share with our readers the words we spoke at the Joint Universal Peace Federation (UPF) Leadership Conference and of the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP), of which we are co-chairman with veteran former 30-year US Congressman Dan Burton, most recently in Seoul, Republic of Korea.
At the opening ceremony of the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics several days ago, the North and South Korean athletes marched together behind a blue-and-white “unification” flag for the first time in more than a decade.
It was an emotionally charged historic moment, which sends a powerful signal that peace, though it may be difficult, elusive, and distant, is not impossible.
We in the UPF and the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP) applaud Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jong-Un for sending a high-level delegation, including his sister, Kim Yo Jong, to the Pyeongchang Olympics and for perhaps creating the beginnings of the Seoul-Pyongyang informal or formal talks.
These laudable gestures have raised hopes for peace and reconciliation in the Korean Peninsula.
We equally commend South Korean President Moon Jae-in for his vision, leadership and initiative in carving out a new path to signal better relations between the two Koreas.
We hope that the North and South Korea display of unity at the Pyeongchang Olympics will be built upon and serve as harbinger of a new chapter in political and economic engagement in the Korean Peninsula, and, to quote President Moon Jae-in, “a precious starting point for a step toward world peace.”
In 2006, as our small, humble contribution in helping encourage direct talks between Seoul and Pyongyang, we transferred from Manila to Seoul the secretariat of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), which we founded and established in Manila in September, 2000, and of which I am chairman of its Standing Committee up to now. The ICAPP secretariat is now most active in Seoul and headed by Secretary General Park Ro-byug, an experienced South Korean diplomat, and by my co-chairman, now South Korean National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong.
We note that since we formed ICAPP in Manila in 2000, ICAPP now counts some 350 ruling, opposition, and independent parties from 52 countries in Asia, and the Korean Workers Party of North Korea is a member of ICAPP.
Ideological differences shouldn’t get in the way
In Northeast Asia today, we need to develop pragmatic and creative methods that will try to rebuild North-South relations in the Korean Peninsula—without hopefully allowing too many of the ideological differences to get in the way.
Our interest in such an outcome is personal as well as professional — because our earliest voluntary errands in Philippine foreign policy involved North Korea. In 1990, we visited Pyongyang as then acting chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Relations, in an informal pioneering effort to try to open Philippine diplomatic relations with North Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) — to try to discourage it at the time from giving material and moral support to guerrillas of the Communist New People’s Army (NPA) in the Philippines.
(To be continued)