Changing South-North Korean Relations
The Korean peninsula has long been one of the world’s hot spots. But the historic South-North summit in June 2000 and subsequent developments quickly changed the mood in South Korea from confrontation and hatred to a focus on reconciliation and cooperation. However, the ongoing crisis on the Korean peninsula, caused by the apparent pursuit of nuclear weapons on the part of North Korea, represents a serious challenge not only to South Korea and the United States, but also to regional stability and to the national security interests of all of Korea’s Northeast Asian neighbors. Despite the heightened tension on the peninsula, the Roh Moo Hyun administration has made reconciliation with Pyongyang its top priority, expanding the scope and content of the “sunshine policy.”

Three rounds of the Six-Party Talks have made no progress. Despite some small movement, the Korean situation remains essentially stalemated through 2004 and the prospects for an early breakthrough seem bleak. The United States and North Korea are reexamining their positions and trying to repackage them to make them more attractive. While the North Korean nuclear crisis has divided Washington and Seoul, it has had the opposite effect on Washington’s relations with Tokyo. Japan has taken a hard line on dealing with the North. China has been playing the role of broker between Washington and Pyongyang. A breakthrough may occur as a result of negotiations, or the tension on the peninsula may increase if Washington decides to escalate economic pressure and to seek international inspections of North Korean ships and cargo movements. How the foreign policy of the second-term Bush administration will affect the North Korean nuclear problem will become a matter of great attention.

2006 will be a crucial period for the resolution of the North Korean nuclear problem and inter-Korean relations. Better understanding of two Koreas and more focus on South-North relations are crucial for the future development of the Korean peninsula and the region. For the next few years, the East-West Center and POSCO Visiting Fellows will study such topics as:

  • Prospects for the Six-Party Talks
  • Prospects for South-North Korean relations
  • Prospect for US-North Korean relations
  • Changing South-North Korean relations and their implications for US-ROK alliance and regional security order
  • Prospects for North Korea’s reform and opening

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Back to Visiting Fellowships