Korea-peaceful power in East Asia

One hundred journalists from 55 countries discussed the role of media in building peace, at the five-day 2017 World Journalists Conference which was organized by Journalists Association of Korea (JAK) in early April. The program included significant topics to discuss especially conflict resolution and the role of media.

The program started in Seoul and continued in other cities such as Suwon, Busan and Incheon. It was a valuable step for South Korea which will host PyeongChang Winter Olympics next year, with the theme of peace against conflict. Asia Journalist Association (AJA) also made an important contribution with its members from Central Asia and Caucasus; it was meaningful to see the post-Soviet approach to the issues of the Korean peninsula. The Korean peninsula has several conflicts, not just the North Korean issue but some others appear in its neighborhood. Historical and geographical conflicts with Japan are in the foreground. Japanese war crimes, including comfort women scandals during the Second World War, stand as a critical problem between the two countries.

On the other hand, Japan stakes out a claim on Dokdo Island of South Korea. At the same time, East Sea is another discussion between two countries. Japanese side calls here as the Sea of Japan. South Korea claims that term appeared while Korea was under the Japanese occupation. As an addition to the conflicts with Japan, the THAAD issue stands as hot discussion nowadays. This negatively affected the relations between South Korea and China.

China opposes South Korea’s decision to deploy the missile defense system. Beijing accepts this as a threat to its national security. So, Chinese government enforced sanctions to Korean investments in the country. The agenda about Park Geun-hye, former president of South Korea, who was impeached by the Constitutional Court in March 2017, was also another hot issue. This can be tiring for the country. The initiative of nuclear weapon tests of North Korea is quite another problem of the peninsula. This stands as a radical threat to regional security and also global security. Thus, South Korea follows an effective way to draw world attention. The media plays a key role in this mission and can shape global peace.

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The opening ceremony of the program was held at the Seoul Press Center. Jung Kyu-sung, President of Journalists Association of Korea made opening remarks and said: “This event will enable participants to take a close look at the world’s last divided country, which is Korea. All participants have one thing in common: striving to deliver the truth and bolster freedom and peace, with warm hearts and cold heads.” In the most remarkable moment, Chinese and American participants were delivering their opinions on regional problems. The Chinese side is strongly against the THAAD system and they assume it will bring other problems in the near future. Americans think differently and they believe only the U.S. can play a significant role. One of the most important meetings was held with Choi Moon-soon, the governor of Gangwon province. Along with his hilarious presentation to the world journalists, he mentioned important facts and expectations about the Korean Peninsula.

Before the division of Korea in 1945, Gangwon and its North Korean neighbor Kangwon formed a single province, so the other half is located in North Korea. He pointed out the sharp differences of the two halves by mentioning the rapid progress of South Korea. Also, PyeongChang county which will host the 2018 Winter Olympics, is here. Hereby, 2018 will be a meaningful year to see peaceful initiatives of South Korea. Mr. Choi also underlined another interesting fact about PyeongChang and Pyongyang. According to his words, PyeongChang promotes peace but Pyongyang is becoming a symbol of war and destruction. South Korea rises as a peaceful power in the world. Balance in protecting East Asia is not easy but Seoul’s decisions will play a key role in the period of conflict.

Mehmet Fatih ÖZTARSU

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