By FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOSE C. DE VENECIA, JR.
“If we attack the South, the South will be destroyed. But we in the North will also be destroyed.”
This was the reply of the legendary North Korean founder Kim Il-sung when we inquired into the possibility of another war in the Korean peninsula during our meeting with him in his mountain villa north of Pyongyang in 1990. We were then acting chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs.
More than a week ago, as the global community still grapples with the Coronavirus, Pyongyang blew up the building that serves as liaison between North and South Korea, claiming that it was a retaliatory attack after a group of North Korean defectors flew balloons containing anti-North Korea leaflets into North Korea.
Some analysts say that Pyongyang’s confrontational action is a sign that the relations between the two Koreas is once again on a nosedive, while others claim that North Korea is “manufacturing a crisis” to salvage the stalemated 2018 and 2019 peace negotiations with South Korea and the United States.
We remember the emotionally charged historic moment at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Pyongchang Olympics, when the North and South Korean athletes marched together behind the blue-and-white “unification” flag for the first time in more than a decade. It sent a powerful signal that peace, though difficult, elusive, and distant, is not impossible to achieve.
Many then applauded Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jong-un for sending a high-level delegation, including his sister, Kim Yo Jong, to the Pyongchang Olympics and thus created the beginnings of the Seoul-Pyongyang and the Washington-Pyongyang peace talks. Many equally commended 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.
Pyongyang’s and Seoul’s laudable gestures have raised hopes for peace and reconciliation in the Korean peninsula.
In 2006, as our 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 are privileged to serve as chairman of its standing committee up to now.
North Korea’s Korean Workers Party is a member of the ICAPP and attends our general assembly which is held every two years and, at times, participates in our special conferences.
Our ICAPP secretariat is now headed by South Korean diplomat Park Ro-byug, and earlier by our co-chairman, now South Korean National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong, who played a vital role in the 2018 and 2019 peace talks between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in and between Kim and US President Donald Trump.
We believe the 2018 and 2019 peace summits between the two Koreas and between North Korea and the US can be built upon for a new chapter in political and economic engagement and a lasting peace in the Korean Peninsula.
Whenever Pyongyang under Kim Jong-un, and previously under his late father Kim Jong-il, rattles the sounds of war in the Korean peninsula, we always remember the words of practical wisdom from Kim Jong-un’s late grandfather Kim Il-sung.