Lessons from Rev. Moon’s Trip to Pyongyang 25 Years Ago

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By Mark P. Barry

mark-barryThis week marks the 25th anniversary of Reverend and Mrs. Moon’s trip to North Korea from Nov. 30 to Dec. 6, 1991. The key principle and motivation he followed in his visit to Pyongyang and meeting with the late President Kim Il Sung is that war must never again erupt on the Korean peninsula. It would be wise for policymakers in the U.S., South Korea and Japan to be reminded of that lesson today.

For Koreans old enough to remember the devastation of the Korean War, the importance of avoiding a new Korean conflict is very understandable. In fact, at the height of the original North Korean nuclear crisis in June 1994, when President Clinton was ready to dispatch advanced fighters and bombers plus 10,000 American troop reinforcements to South Korea, the person who stopped him was ROK President Kim Young Sam. His memories of the enormous tragedies of the Korean War were quite vivid (including the loss of his mother). The South Korean leader reflected that no major power, even an irreplaceable ally, can be permitted to provoke another outbreak of war on the Korean peninsula.

Today, despite all the rhetoric about North Korea’s five nuclear tests, numerous missile tests and general bellicosity, the principle of finding a peaceful solution is as relevant as in 1991. To continue on the path of increasing UN and bilateral sanctions, and even entertain talk of preemptive strikes against DPRK nuclear facilities, is a formula that will fail to get the North to back down or cooperate. Rather it increases the chances of escalation in which even a small action might be misconstrued and inadvertently trigger full-blown hostilities.

Twenty-five years ago, Rev. Moon demonstrated an approach towards a resolution of the North Korean issue in which all other parties would avoid backing the North into a corner where there would be no other option for it but resort to violence.

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