With Ambassador Sung Chul Yang
Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2000; 2 p.m. EDT
South Korean President Kim Dae Jung recently won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to make peace between South and North Korea. What is the state of reconciliation between the two Koreas? Will Clinton visit North Korea next month?
Join Ambassador Sung Chul Yang, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the United States, on Wednesday at 2 p.m. EDT, to talk about the latest news and politics in Korea.
Recently, Ambassador Yang served as an executive member of the New Millennium Party's 21st Century National Affairs Advisory Committee. From 1996 to the time of his posting in Washington, Ambassador Yang served as a member of the Korean National Assembly, as President of the Unification and Policy Forum, and as the Chairman of the International Cooperation Committee for the National Congress for New Politics.
Previously, he has served as the Secretary-General of the Association of Korean Political Scientists in North America and as President of the Korean Association of International Studies. He has also been a member of the Advisory Committees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of National Defense, and the National Unification Board.
Ambassador Yang has been a professor at several universities including Northwestern University, Indiana University and Seoul National University. He was also the Dean of Academic Affairs at the Graduate Institute of Peace Studies at Kyung Hee University in Seoul.
He is the author of several books on Korean issues, including "The North and South Korean Political Systems: A Comparative Analysis (Westview, 1994)" and contributed to various political science journals. He has been interviewed by leading newspapers, magazines and radio stations from around the world.
The transcript follows.
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Do you think Koreans really believe that unifcation will happen? What is the climate there like right now?
Ambassador Yang: Yes, the Korean people believe in unification. However, unification is a long-term goal that will not happen overnight. What the Korean government and the Korean people want now is peace between North and South Korea, reduction of tensions in the Korean peninsula and reconciliation and cooperation between the two sides. President Kim initiated the Sunshine Policy to achieve such immediate goals before unification is eventually accomplished.
Falls Church, VA:
With all that's been happening on the Korean Peninsula recently, would you classify Korea as tourist friendly? If my family went there for a vacation would we be safe traveling to small villages as well as the big cities? Is there an out of the way place you could recommend, something quiet with a nice view, friendly people, and good restaurants?
Of course Korea is absolutely tourist friendly. Even before the relaxation of the tensions between both Koreas, South Korea has been one of the safest and friendliest places in Asia. There are numerous small villages and big cities to recommend. For further information, you can contact the Korean tourist bureaus in Los Angeles (213) 382-3425 and New York City (201) 585-0909.
You are welcome to look at the website: http://www.knto.or.kr.
How do you feel about Clinton's possible visit to North Korea next
Ambassador Yang: WWe would first have to wait and see what kind of agreement or arrangement is made for the presidential visit during the upcoming visit to North Korea by Madame Secretary Albright.
Should a visit by President Clinton be realized, that would provide an enormous opportunity to remove many obstacles on the way to normal relations between the U.S. and North Korea.
The South Korean government would welcome the visit particularly because a momentum of reconciliation thus created between the U.S. and North Korea would facilitate the peace process between the Koreas. The visit would be consistent with President Kim Dae-jung's Sunshine Policy.
Mr. Ambassador, what is South Korea's position on U.S. development of a national missile defense system considering that North Korea is one of the two states most often mentioned as the threat such a system would be used to combat?
Ambassador Yang: We understand that the U.S. concept of a national missile defense system was introduced to cope with new types of security threats that the U.S. perceives in the post-Cold War era. We hope that the issue would be addressed through close consultations among interested countries.
President Kim Dae Jung's award of the Nobel Peace Prize is a great honor to Koreans whether they live in North or South. There is no doubt that the most striking contribution to this award was the first-ever "reconciliation" summit in June between President Kim Dae Jung and Chairman Kim Jong Il.
Would President Kim consider using the prize money to facilitate the reconciliation spirit, for example, by arranging a so-called "Reconciliation Fund" to help save millions of emaciated children, 300,000 malnourished pregnant women, or about half a million disabled without wheelchairs all in North Korea?
Such a use of the Nobel Peace award would further empower the reconcilation between the two Koreas where symbolic actions convey critical meaning.
Asaph Young Chun, President
Institute for Strategic Reconciliation, Inc.
Ambassador Yang: As far as the prize money is concerned, President Kim has stated that the prize is not his personal but a public award and he will use it for the causes consistent with the spirit of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Ambassador, I was delighted to hear that Korea's president won the Nobel Peace Prize. What does the prize say about the future of Korean foreign relations, particularly with North Korea?
What impact did the prize have on South Koreans?
Ambassador Yang: The Nobel Peace committee recognizes President Kim's lifelong devotion and personal sacrifices in promoting democracy, human rights and peace. In particular, it cites President Kim's tireless and relentless efforts to keep the peace process between the two Koreas. This award will further expedite the peace process on the Korean peninsula.
This is the first Nobel Prize ever received by a Korean. However, the positive impact of President Kim's Nobel Peace Prize extends beyond South Koreans. I believe not only Koreans at home and abroad but also all the peace-loving people around the world receive the news with great pride.
What can the US government do to help hasten reunification? - and - How responsive, in the opinion of the Korean people, has the current administration been to their desire for reunification?
Ambassador Yang: At the moment, the policy priority for my government is to reconcile differences and cooperate with North Korea. Reunification is still a distant goal before which we can mature the current peace process. The U.S. government, as an ally of Korea, has been and will be closely coordinating and cooperating with us in our efforts in this regard
What is your role in the No Gun Ri inquiry? Do you have any information on the investigation?
Ambassador Yang: The U.S. and Korean governments are closely coordinating in investigating the tragic incident thoroughly, fully and completely.
According to the Washington Post newspaper, two burial pits containing chemical warfare munitions have been unearthed in the backyard of your U.S. residence, located in the Spring Valley section of the District of Columbia. Subsequently, the Post reported that widespread levels of arsenic has contaminated the yard's topsoil (as well as in adjacent properties).
Since 1993, the Post reports that the Army Corps of Engineers has been cleaning up the military ordnance in some parts of Spring Valley and has been addressing your specific residential property since 1997 or 1998. Considering the fact that additional investigations continue to document new discoveries of buried World War I munitions in Spring Valley (which were the location of the American University Experiment Staion), are you and the Government of South Korea satisfied with the efforts by the Army Corps of Engineers to cleanup your property and that of other residents in Spring Valley?
Ambassador Yang: At the moment, we are removing the topsoils which are chemically contaminated and restoring jobs will be completed by the first half of next year in cooperation with the Corps of Engineers of the U.S. government.
Is the Asian Economic Crisis still affecting Korea and if so, to what extent?
Ambassador Yang: Korea has overcome the initial financial crisis but is still struggling with restructuring and reforming its economy so that it can be competitive in the increasingly challenging global market. President Kim is determined to complete the four sector reforms -- financial, corporate, labor and government-- by February of next year.
What is your opinion on why Kim Jong Il all of a sudden changed his mind and is willing to pursue ties with the rest of the world? The famine supposedly has subsided so it is not out of desperation for food. He is also endangering his hold on power by potentially allowing outside contact contaminate his cult-like monopoly on information and news. Does he have an ulterior motive to seek rapprochement that could ultimately threaten the South and its allies?
Ambassador Yang: North Korea is not an exception to the countries such as China, Vietnam, Eastern Europe and Russia, which have been reforming and opening up their societies. Such signs already abound.
This is the premise on which President Kim and the South Korean government approach the issue of dealing with North Korea. We cannot ascertain any ulterior motives of North Korea. What's important is to keep engaging North Korea on the path toward peace and reconciliation with pat ience, persistence and vision.
Thank you Ambassador Yang for coming online and sharing the current events in Korea.
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