▲ Panelists for the "20 Years of Diplomatic Relations between Korea and China: Advancing Strategic Cooperative Partnership," session on June 1. Photo by The Jeju Weekly
Since 2012 marks 20 years since South Korea and China officially forged diplomatic relations, the session “20 Years of Diplomatic Relations between Korea and China: Advancing Strategic Cooperative Partnership” was one that was greeted with anticipation by many who attended the 7th Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity on June 1.
Presented in Chinese and Korean with English interpretation, the discussants were Kwon Byong Hyon, chairman of the Korea-China Culture and Youth Association and former Ambassador to China; Kim Suk Woo, president of the National Development Institute (NDI); Zhang Tingyan, vice president of the China-Rok Friendship Association and was the first Chinese Ambassador to South Korea; and Xu Dunxin, chief negotiator for the ROK-PRC Diplomatic Normalization.
With Shin Jung Seung, director for the Center for Chinese Studies, as moderator, they talked of the formation, present circumstances, and future possibilities for diplomatic relations between China and South Korea.
“Looking back we think that there is a great more potential to advance further in the bilateral relationship [between China and South Korea],” Shin said at the beginning of the session.
Xu was given the floor shortly after saying that “the ties between our two parties have developed remarkably in the last 20 years.” He pointed out that in 2011, trade between the two countries was US$245 billion, 40 times what it was 20 years ago when the relationship first formed.
On top of that he said the formal agreement of their relationship “played a big role in the interest not of just our two countries but within the region” showing that there can be stability in Asia.
The bilateral ties, he said, have developed through three stages. First was the formal signing on Aug. 24, 1992. Second was the creation of a strategic partnership in 2003. And the third was after South Korean President Lee Myung Bak took power in 2008 and held several high priority meetings with China where the two countries have gotten together “to share their views,” said Xu.
“It is one of the few bilateral ties in the world that has been so strong,” Xu said, highlighting the fact that the two share information on education, technology, and culture, as well as benefit financially from one another.
Currently there are more than 6 million visitors between China and Korea, and there are roughly 70,000 Korean students studying in China, and 80,000 Chinese studying in Korea, according to Xu. “Last of all,” he said, “our two countries have a common interest to maintain stability in the region and improve our economic relations.”
If the two have disagreements, which is bound to happen, “what is more important … we have respect for each other,” said Xu
Former Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Zhang said that the relationship was at least a decade in the making.
He continued that it started in the 1980s, particularly with South Korea’s hosting of the 1986 Asian Games, and then again through participating in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul.
Before that, he said, “China never dispatched sports teams to Korea.”
Even then, before 1992, “ there was no exchanges between the two countries,” Zhang said.
But by 1992 the Cold War had ended and “[Korea] felt that we needed change within the region,” said NDI President Kim Suk Woo. “We also noticed that we needed to normalize economic relations in Northeast Asia.”
There were three closed door talks (two in Beijing, one in Seoul) between the two countries and on the third meeting the formal diplomatic relations between China and South Korea were finalized.
“The reason that we had these closed door sessions is we had to mind our relationship with North Korea,” Zhang said. “Before normalizing ties with South Korea we had to make sure North Korea did not know so we were able to maintain the status quo with North Korea.”
Zhang pointed out that they eased North Korea into the decision through telling them about China’s application in 1983 to host the Asian Games (which they did in 1990) and that China’s policy to the South was changing, and reassured the North that it would not influence their relationship.
According to Zhang, “Kim Il Sung said back then that he understood the situation and that it was an internal issue of China that he supported them.”
Moderator Shin then turned the conversation to more recent controversies like North Korea’s sinking of the South’s navy corvette the Cheonan in 2010, and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2011, and the “difference of opinions” over what happened and actions to take.
For China, Xu said it was more important to continue trying to resume the six-party talks, which was on the table before these instances.
Though not directly addressing China’s position on these two attacks, Xu stressed the importance of resuming the six-party talks which “led to great achievements” towards establishing a denuclearized North Korea.
To this end the six-party talks need to resume, said Xu, and though both China and South Korea have both put in great efforts, North Korea and the US need to begin talking.
“North Korea and the US, the two key players in the six-party talks, don’t have the minimum commitment for [it],’ Xu said, adding that China and Korea should pursue this for safety and stability in the region.
Though there has been criticism against China for their relationship with the North, Zhang said that his country “supports the reunification of the Korean peninsula.” However, it should not be done by force, he said.
“It will take quite a long time,” Zhang concluded.
The 7th Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity, organized by the Jeju Peace Institute and hosted and sponsored by several organizations and corporations, began at 4 p.m on May 31. with the Special Session “Conversation with Steve Wozniak: The End of the PC Era and Future of the IT Industry.” A total of 58 sessions in the categories of prosperity, environment, peace, gender, education, and one titled etc. will be conducted from May 31 to June 2 at the Haevichi Hotel & Resort Jeju, Seogwipo City.
Under the theme of "New Trends and the Future of Asia," the 7th Jeju Forum will examine political and social issues affecting the area within a historical context to encourage cooperation and community building in the region. The forum will also afford the opportunity to simultaneously gauge the political and financial climate throughout the world to better understand Asia’s position within it. As this year marks the 20th anniversary since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and China, there will be several sessions dedicated to the future of this union like “Korean Unification and China,” and “20 Years of Diplomatic Relations between Korea and China - Push Forward Strategic Cooperative Partnership.”
Hundreds of incumbent and former heads of state, experts, leading businessmen, academics, and activists including former Prime Minister of Australia Paul John Keating, former Prime Minister of Thailand Abhisit Vejjajiva, Chinese People’s Political Party Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee Member Xie Bo Yang, and Apple Inc. Co-founder Steve Wozniak will be on hand for the three-day event to discuss the future of Asia.
Some of the other topics to be addressed during this three-day conference include the future of the IT Industry, new growth engines for the region, the environment, financial cooperation, welfare expansion, and others.
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