Using Multilateralism to Establish a Peace Regime on the Korean Peninsula

Julie M. Huner

I.    Introduction

      Korea has been a divided country for over sixty years and a country at war for over fifty years.  For the first time since the launch of the Korean War[1], there is reason to hope that a permanent peace can be reached relatively soon.  Largely due to the efforts of the six-party talks, the major players (North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States), have found common ground on which to build a foundation for a peace regime on the Korean peninsula.  This peace regime will be responsible for overseeing the transition of the peninsula from a place of war to a place of peace and security.  It will occur in three stages, the first of which is the signing of an inter-Korean peace agreement.  The second stage involves the signing of a multilateral peace treaty by North Korea, South Korea, China and the United States.  The third stage is the establishment of a peace management organization which will involve all of the major players and will be the main force in guiding Korea into the future.  The implementation of these three stages will officially establish a peace regime on the peninsula.

II.  The Two Koreas

      Korea has not always been a divided peninsula.  At the end of World War II the peninsula was divided into two, with the United States in the South and the Soviet Union in the North.[2]  This division may also be considered the beginning of the push for Korean reunification.  The peninsula has never been able to reunify, and since the time of its division, the area north of the 38th parallel has been a communist state and the area to the south has developed inline with the Western democratic model.[3]  The two regions have remained in a condition of civil war since an invasion by the North on June 25, 1950 which began the Korean War.[4]  A truce signed in 1953[5] ended large scale warfare, but the two armies have remained in a stalemate and have kept the attention of the world powers, and particularly the United States, ever since.[6]  The peninsula itself has remained physically divided by the Demilitarized Zone[7] which is a tangible reminder of the war that continues to plague Korea.

      Presently, the Korean peninsula remains one of the most dangerous flash points in the world, and is a place where war could erupt with barely any warning time, putting at risk the lives of tens of thousands of Americans, not to mention millions of Koreans.[8]  Close to two million troops, including 37,000 from the United States, are on duty in North and South Korea.[9]  The Korean peninsula is concerned not only with these internal threats, but also with the possibility of external threats.

      Geography dealt Korea a particularly difficult hand because it is located in a strategic yet volatile neighborhood among the major powers of China, Japan and Russia.[10]  In its two thousand years of recorded history, Korea has suffered nine hundred invasions and has also experienced five major periods of foreign occupation- by China, the Mongols, Japan, and, after World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union.[11]  Although the peninsula is no longer under foreign occupation, the influences of its former occupiers remain a potent factor in the peninsula’s political, economic and social developments.

      Internally, the two Koreas have developed asymmetrically.  North Korea’s diplomatic isolation, famine, and economic collapse contrast sharply with the political and economic development of South Korea.[12]  The United States thought that this unbalanced development on the peninsula served as proof of the effectiveness of the security arrangements it had created and maintained during the cold war.[13]  Thus the United States did not at first recognize an urgent need for revising the security arrangements after the end of the Cold War.[14]  This inaction by the United States, acquiesced to by the other great powers, has helped create the situation that exists in Korea today by preserving the status quo.  

      Despite all the challenges that arise in dealing with Korea, the importance of the peninsula’s geopolitical location remains unchanged and has directly impacted the great powers’ involvement in Korean affairs.[15] In the face of these challenges confronting the peninsula, the great powers cannot delay their attempts to find a solution for peaceful transition of the status quo on the peninsula.  North Korea will be able to avoid change as long as it can manipulate its bilateral relationships with the United States, Japan, China and Russia to its own advantage, which it has managed to do to this point.[16]  It is therefore essential that South Korea and the United States work with Japan, China and Russia to develop a longer-term strategy for achieving change in North Korea.[17]  Prerequisite to an enduring solution of the Korean problem is an agreement between the four major powers on how to approach the future of Korea.[18]

      There are four major options for Korea’s future being advocated by experts on the subject.  One option is the maintenance of the status quo.[19]  This has been the option adopted by some of the major powers in the past, mostly because it is the easiest approach.  So long as North Korea did not escalate its missile and nuclear weapons programs, the countries ignore any other problems that arose, such as human rights violations.  But this option has mostly been abandoned recently, first because of North Korea’s nuclear launch last year, and second because of the progress that has been made in the most recent rounds of the six-party talks. 

      The second option for the future of Korea is that of military escalation and perhaps an eventual war.[20]  This is the option that all parties involved would like to avoid.  The third option is a regime collapse in North Korea.[21]  This option was advocated by the Bush administration in its first term, but that approach has changed in the past year.  Instead, the United States has aligned itself with the other major powers.  The fourth option is the one that has been promoted by both Koreas: reunification.[22]  Although the governments of both countries have publicly declared their desire to reunify, they both have accepted that reunification may not be feasible at the present time and that something else is necessary before reunification will be possible.  That necessary “something” is multilateralism.

III. Multilateralism

      Given the pending dangers posed by a nuclear North Korea and the failures of the past six years to address the problems in Korea, a new approach must be found to regain lost ground.  The approach thus far, waiting for the North eventually to capitulate due to political and economic pressure or for the North Korean regime to collapse, has been a serious miscalculation of the situation.[23]  The approach with the best chance of being successful is one that focuses on multilateral cooperation. 

      Multilateralism is a term in international relations that refers to multiple countries working together on a given issue.[24]  A multilateral format in which the international powers participate will give them a sense of responsibility in guaranteeing security in Korea and in promoting regular consultations and policy coordination among the two Koreas and the international powers.[25]  The emergence of a genuine multilateral forum to deal with the North Korea nuclear issue may also eventually contribute to the institutionalization of a regional security arrangement to deal with the peaceful Korean reunification process.[26] 

      Multilateral cooperation among international powers is an essential element to solving the Korean problem but it is not desirable that the two Koreas take on subordinate roles in the problem-solving process.  It is also not feasible to consider the two Koreas independently from their role in Northeast Asia’s international order.  It is important to note that the major powers do not necessarily have an interest in a reunified Korea.  Therefore, realistically, a negotiated re-unification seems unattainable in the foreseeable future.  What seems to be within the bounds of feasibility is an attempt to narrow the widening animosity between the two sides before it is too late and to open the doors of communication among all the major players.  The price of inaction may turn out to be not simply the continuation of the potentially explosive armed confrontation but also the steady erosion of the deeply rooted bonds that unite the Korean people.[27]  A clarification of the interests of the major players will enable us to see if common ground exists on which the four major international powers and the two Koreas can devise a viable solution to the future of Korea. 

      A.  The International Players     

      Though it is important to analyze the interests of all players, the interests of the international players are likely to be different from each other.  Therefore, it is important to analyze the interests of each international player separately and then analyze the interests together to determine whether there is common ground to build upon.  This common ground will be used to formulate a strategy among the international players to deal with the Korean problem.

            1.         International Players Interests

                        a.         China

      The scenario of North Korea’s collapse is not in China’s national interests.[28]  A huge flow of refugees into China would likely occur with the collapse of North Korea.[29]  China has supplied North Korea with substantial economic and political support for some years and has become the greatest donor country for North Korea in terms of food and oil.[30]  Continued Chinese economic assistance to North Korea signifies its determination to save the North Korean buffer state.[31]  China can effectively utilize this assistance for leverage in inducing the North to engage in arms control and peace negotiations with the South.[32]  China can play a crucial role in influencing North Korea’s behavior.[33] 

      On the other hand, China is uncertain about the future of the United States-South Korea military alliance, the political fate of North Korea, and the possible fallout from Korean reunification.[34]  Considering the possibility of a military alliance between a unified and perhaps nationalistic Korea and the United States, and fearing the political and economic consequences of a rapid Korean reunification, China has clearly ranked stability through status quo above reunification in its policy calculation.[35] 

      Currently, China’s dominant interest is in a peaceful and stable Korean peninsula, divided or unified, preferably divided.[36]  China perceives the unification of Korea with ambivalence: on the one hand, a unified Korea may create stability and peace on the peninsula over the long run and may eliminate the existence of external military and political forces in the region.[37]  It is also strongly interested in seeing the peninsula free of any external military presence, divided or unified, but China is reluctant to play a very active role, yet it is keenly interested in having a say.[38]  The Chinese government prefers a divided Korea, since a unified peninsula would bring about the possibility of having a nation with U.S. forces on China’s border.  Officially, China supports Korean unification as long as this occurs peacefully and through the efforts of the Korean people themselves.

      A divided Korea has clearly been advantageous in that it has ensured a weak and preoccupied country on one of China’s borders.[39]  In contrast, a united Korea would be a strong state that might turn its attention to unpleasant issues such as Korean interest in incorporating parts of Chinese territory and areas of Manchuria with heavily ethnic Korean populations.[40]  Financially China would lose much of a valuable market in South Korea, since the costs of reunification would make Chinese products unattractive to Korean consumers.[41]  China might face an influx of refuges and be asked to shoulder some of the costs of reunification.[42] 

      The Chinese people are sympathetic for the hungry North Koreans.[43] They also are concerned about the possible flood of refugees that would follow from a North Korean regime collapse or the outbreak of war on the peninsula.[44]  Like the government in China, the Chinese people would also benefit from security in the region.  Combining these interests with those previously interested, the status quo rather than reunification is preferable to China.                   

                        b.         Japan

      Japan has a stake in playing a more active role on Korea issues.  North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile program are a threat to Japan.[45] Japan occupied Korea in 1905 and annexed it as a Japanese possession in 1910.[46]  Japan then ruled Korea harshly until its defeat in World War II.[47] Since the Korean War, Japan sided with the United States and South Korea on issues affecting the region.[48]   At a time when other powers are active on Korean issues, Japan does not want to be kept on the sidelines.  A normalization of Japan’s relations with North Korea could bring North Korea considerable economic aid, expanded trade, private investment flows, additional remittances from North Korean sympathizers living in Japan, and an end to Japan’s opposition to North Korean membership in international financial institutions.[49]

      Japan strongly prefers the status quo over Korean reunification.  A united and economically and militarily strong Korea that has deep historical hatred against the Japanese nation would necessarily threaten Japan’s security.[50]  Also, a united Korea would certainly be on the Chinese side in any possible future Sino-Japanese conflict.[51]  Japan’s political attitude to Korean reunification is to stabilize and enhance the division between the North and South.[52]  Japan also has financial concerns of loss of the southern market and costs of reunification.  The status quo on the Korean peninsula with continued division of the country is the scenario Japan considers in its best national interests.  However, the status quo with North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons and missiles does not serve Japan’s national interests.[53] 

      The Japanese public has come to support a hard-line approach toward North Korea.[54]  The public’s attention is almost exclusively dominated by the abduction issue, with relatively limited focus on the North’s nuclear weapons programs.[55]  Like China, the Japanese public also fears the potential flood of refugees.[56]  When faced with a choice between maintaining the status quo or Korean reunification, Japan would clearly prefer the status quo.

                        c.         Russia

      For the Russians, Korea represents a foreign policy opportunity.  President Putin is eager to utilize diplomatic dexterity to offset the declining weight of Russia’s military and economic capabilities, and Korea provides an attractive arena for his efforts.[57]  The Russian government, like China’s, does not want to see U.S. forces on its border.[58]   Unlike China and Japan, Russia would stand to lose little in the way of trade.  Russia would also like to regain its influence in North Korea while developing its relationship with South Korea.[59]  The Russian people face the same problems as China and Japan: the potential refugee problem.  Essentially, Russia is believed to want to stop Korean reunification, and to establish good relations with both Koreas, for its own strategic and economic interests while also maintaining security in the region.[60]

                        d.         United States

      The United States is the most important international actor in the drama of Korean conflict, both because of its direct involvement through the United States- South Korean alliance and the presence of United States military forces, as well as because of North Korea’s perception that the United States is the ultimate determinant of war and peace on the peninsula.[61]  Therefore the role of the United States seems most vital in resolving the Korean problem through effective tensions reduction, arms control and peace-building.[62]  The United States understands well the importance of helping to maintain stability, prevent the emergence of regional rivalries, and promote the peaceful resolution of differences within and among regional nations.[63]

      A final wildcard is the continued commitment of the United States populace to expending the economic, political, and military resources necessary to maintain its presence.[64]  Variables include developments in the war on terrorism; the United States fiscal situation; United States relations with other regional states; and the political military and financial support of regional allies and friends to help meet United States interests.[65]  Opinion polls show a strong foundation of support for engaging problem countries and for a more serious effort to engage North Korea.[66]  Eight in ten Americans reject the approach of isolating rather than talking to these states.[67]  A majority, 51 percent, thinks the North can be persuaded to give up its weapons by providing it with aid, money, or trade.[68]

      A renewed and intensified policy of engagement is worthwhile because vital United States interests are at stake.  A policy of enhanced engagement that articulates a positive vision for the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia; seeks to rapidly identify common ground with North Korea; builds productive communication; sets negotiating priorities; establishes realistic nuclear objectives; and creates a successful, sustained process of implementation holds the best chance for resolving the crisis and securing United States interests.[69] 

            2.         Areas of Common Ground & Agreement among the International                                          Players


      North Korea will be able to avoid change as long as it can manipulate its separate bilateral relationships with the four major international powers to its own advantage.[70]  It is therefore essential that South Korea and the United States work with Japan, China and Russia to develop a longer-term strategy for achieving change in Korea.[71]  China, Japan, and Russia share a common interest in a politically and socially stable, capitalist Korea, free of nuclear weapons.  Each nation also prizes the free flow of shipping in the region.  All of the nations fear the fallout of regime collapse or war including the potential flood of refugees as well as other social and monetary costs of reconstruction that may result from a difficult political, economic, and social transition on the peninsula.[72]  All the major international powers seek a stable Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons.

      Though the international players share a common interest in maintaining stability in the region, each holds that interest for different reasons.  China seeks to maintain the divided Korea because of its concerns sharing a border with a unified Korea.  Japan prefers the status quo because of its concerns about a stronger, unified Korea.  Russia seeks to avoid reunification because it enjoys being able to influence each Korea separately.  The United States would prefer any scenario that maintains stability.  Currently, the United States is spread thin on the military and foreign affairs fronts and would prefer to avoid yet another confrontation in Korea.  For whatever individual reasons each international player holds, they all would prefer a stable Korea.

      B. Domestic Players      

      Although the solution of the Korean problem hinges heavily on the extent to which the differences among the four major international powers are reduced and common ground among them is reached, the two Koreas are not completely powerless in causing meaningful changes in the status quo.[73]  The tensions associated with division still have the potential to trigger a new and possible a more devastating Korean war.[74]  Therefore, it should come as no surprise that a majority of Koreans strongly support reunification.[75]  The governments of North and South Korea, although creations of division, proclaim reunification as their goal and yet little progress toward this goal has been made.[76]

      ``With the unexpected and unhappy partition of the Korean nation in 1945, a low-income population with a single ethnicity, language and heritage was arbitrarily divided in two, and placed under governments professing radically different political, economic, and social philosophies.``[77]  After a quarter of a century under radically different political systems, the two Koreas have become divergent countries whose common cultural heritage is steadily fading away.[78]  It may well be that the North and South Korean inhabitants now have nothing more than their language and ethnic bonds in common.[79]  It is also a very real possibility that the intensive hate campaigns in the North may have succeeded in instilling in the minds of the North Korean people, particularly the youth, a feelings of estrangement from, even of animosity toward, South Korea.[80]  Therefore it is necessary to examine whether a common ground between the two Koreas can be found.

            1.         South Korea’s Interests

      Taking advantage of its superior economic and political position, the South Korean government has been able to dominate inter-Korean relations, thereby shaping the way most people in South Korea and the United States think about reunification.[81]  Peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula is the long-term objective of the South Korean government, but stability is a necessary precondition.[82]  The South has decided that with the proper mix of deterrence, reciprocity, and inducements, the North Korean threat might be gradually transformed.[83]  Through such a gradual transformation, doors of trade between the two Koreas will be opened and both countries will benefit economically. 

      The South Korean people, though excited about the idea of possible reunification with relatives across the border, are still concerned about the economic consequences of reunification.[84]  They are also concerned about possible migration consequences once the border between the two countries is opened; it is very likely that North Koreans would flood across the border into South Korea.[85]  However, the South Koreans especially do not want the collapse of the North; they realize they are not ready to bear the tremendous costs associated with regime collapse.[86]  South Koreans also worry about the nuclear issue and possible war with North Korea should the situation worsen.[87]  The majority of South Koreans would prefer reunification through negotiations rather than absorption by the South after a North Korean regime collapse.

            2.         North Korea’s Interests                               

      Early in the 1990s North Korea was abandoned by its former sponsor and ally, the Soviet Union, which established close relations with South Korea and then collapsed, and was devalued by its other major sponsor and ally, China, which became more interested in markets than in Marxism.[88]  Without an ally in the region, the North has recently begun to appreciate the value of the United States, not only as a deterrent force against the North Korean government, but also as an effective restraint on South Korea’s unilateral military action, Japanese military adventure, and China’s regional ambitions.[89]  Because a less-dangerous external security environment would not just benefit South Korea, but would also benefit the North’s efforts at economic reform, it seems likely that the North Korean government will be willing to work with other countries to achieve this goal.[90]

      The North Korean people would have the most to gain from reunification.  The people of North Korea would benefit from additional humanitarian aid that would pour into a reunified Korea.[91]  They are also the people most likely to severely suffer if the North Korean regime collapses and yet they will also continue to suffer if the status quo remains.[92]  For the North Korea people, a slow transition process to a reunified Korea is the best, if not the only solution.

      An additional consideration in North Korea is the interests of Kim Jong Il.  His primary interest lies in regime survival.[93]  Obviously, Kim Jong Il fears that a reunified Korea could mean the end of his regime.[94]  On the other hand, if the situation continues as it is, it is likely that his regime will collapse.  At this point, cooperation is in his best interest because by cooperating with the major powers he is able to also gain their support.  This support will help his regime survive into the near future.

            3.         Areas of Common Ground & Agreement between the Two Koreas

      Koreans pride themselves on racial homogeneity based on an assumption of shared blood, common origins, culture, and language as well as perceived sharing of a common history and destiny.[95]  Confucianism is another important facet of Korean culture.[96]  The values of patriarchy, respect for one’s elders, education and position are ideals upheld in both Koreas.[97]  Nationalism is another key feature of the Korean people.[98]  The division of Korea, one of the defining features of both the North and South Korean experience, has kept millions of Koreans separated from family members.[99] 

      Both Koreas agree that economic cooperation is in both countries’ interest.[100]  The two halves of Korea are mutually complementary in terms of economic potential.  The predominantly agricultural South and the heavily industrial North were meant to live together, compensating for each others deficiencies.[101]  The integration of the two would vastly enhance the industrial power and potential of all Korea.[102]

      Both countries would also benefit from a permanent peace in the region.  A de-escalation of military hostilities would also open the border between the two countries which would encourage trade and travel between the two countries.  A permanent peace on the peninsula is the key to a smooth transition to reunification which both countries have openly claimed is their ultimate goal. 

      C.  Areas of Common Ground and Agreement among All the Major Players

      A multilateral approach to the Korean problem has most recently been seen in the six-party talks which include North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Russian, and the United States.  None of the nations involved in the talks want Korean reunification any time soon.  Even the Koreas agree that their countries are not ready for a sudden reunification.  Instead the nations involved have been looking for someplace in the middle of the status quo and reunification.  In recent talks, the issue of a “peace regime” has been raised as a new topic among related countries.  The Joint Agreement of the 4th six party talks (September 19, 2005) reconfirmed denuclearization on the Korean peninsula and suddenly embraced the peace regime issues consistently insisted upon by the North.[103]  

      Currently all major players would like to avoid regime collapse and war and none of them are ready for a reunified Korea.  All of the major players have agreed that a peace regime is a potential solution to the current problems.  It also happens to be the most feasible solution at this time and is the only solution that meets the needs and interests of all the major players at this time.  Not only will the peace regime create stability in the region, it will also lay the groundwork for eventually reunifying Korea.         

IV.       International Regime Theory & Peace Regimes

      A.  International Regime Theory

      To understand the purpose of a peace regime fully it is first necessary to understand the role of regimes in the international arena.  Regimes are generally viewed as “encompassing implicit or explicit rules, norms, decision-making procedures, and principles that imply obligation of a regime’s members and around which actor expectations converge”.[104]  Regimes can also include international resolutions, treaties and/or agreements.[105]  It is crucial to distinguish clearly between international regimes and mere substantive agreements.[106]  Regimes facilitate the making of substantive agreements by providing a framework of rules, norms, principles and procedures for negotiation.[107] 

      There are generally three approaches to explaining international regimes.  Those approaches are liberalism, realism, and cognitivism.[108]  Liberalism and realism are both rational, interest based while cognitivism is learning based.[109]  The liberalist approach holds that countries share common interests and that regimes facilitate cooperation by creating a convergence of expectations around these interests.[110]  Realists believe that states act in their own interests and that regimes simply reflect the distribution of power.[111]  Cognitivism is sociological rather than rational and says that states make their decisions through learning.[112]  Regardless of the approach used to examine regimes, the basic effect of regimes is that they facilitate the making of specific agreements on matters of substantive significance within the issue-area covered by the regime.

      Regimes contribute to international cooperation, not by making rules that states MUST follow, but by changing the context within which states make selfish decisions.  Regimes facilitate cooperation by establishing standards of behavior which signal to all other members that individual states are cooperating.[113]  When all states expect the other participants to cooperate, the probability of sustaining cooperation increases dramatically.[114]

      International regimes help to make government’s expectations consistent with one another.  Regimes are developed in part because actors in world politics believe that with such arrangements they will be able to make mutually beneficial agreements that would be otherwise difficult or impossible to attain.[115]  In other words, regimes are valuable to governments where, in their absence, certain mutually beneficial agreements would be impossible to consummate.[116]  To summarize, regimes help to create an environment which will ensure lasting global peace and stability.                      

            B.        A Korean Peace Regime

      A peace regime is an evolutionary strategy which emphasizes the creation and maintenance of international and domestic background conditions conducive to union rather than the recommendation of explicit reunification terms.[117]  This strategy assumes that as policy-makers become aware of favorable background conditions, they will eventually react by negotiating appropriate reunification agreements.[118]  However, even if reunification is not achieved, the progress made in the peace regime will be so substantial that all parties will find a continuation of the regime to be beneficial.

      In order to understand why a peace regime is a good idea for the Korean peninsula, it is necessary to define a “peace regime”.  A peace regime is a whole range of state-to-state and people-to-people relationships, all designed to promote security and cooperation on the Korean Peninsula.[119]  It is not the same as full reconciliation and peaceful reunification.[120]  In the case of Korea where not all interested parties agree that reunification is the best solution right now, a peace regime is much more likely to be agreed upon and is more likely to reflect the interests of all parties.

      The pursuit of a peace regime on the Korean peninsula had previously been pushed by North and South Korea in the form of multilateralism.[121] It has recently been adopted by the international community in the Six-Party Talks and has become one of the major goals of the talks.[122]  It is one in which the United States and China must also participate directly in creating because they were both parties to the original armistice treaty at the end of the Korean War.  Although Russia and Japan were not signatories of the armistice treaty and will not sign the peace treaty, they are expected to take on a guarantor role of the peace regime at the six-party talks.[123]  The effective use of multilateral talks is intended to transfer the armistice regime, a legacy from the Korean War, to a peace regime.[124]  Building a peace regime is designed to put hostile relations formed from mutual distrust and confrontation in the past, to deter war, and to realize permanent peace so that the basis for unification can be laid.[125]

            Establishing a peace regime in Korea requires three essential steps.  The first step is the creation of an inter-Korean peace agreement.[126]  This agreement would be negotiated and signed by both Koreas with the assistance the other members of the multilateral team.[127]  It would first and foremost renounce the armistice treaty and declare and end to the war on the peninsula.  It would also lay out the agenda of the peace regime.  Items to be included are a statement declaring a principle of peace, a pronouncement against war by both Koreas, and a proclamation of reunification as the ultimate objective of the peace regime.[128]  The second step is the signing of a multilateral peace treaty.[129]  The purpose of the treaty is to end the state of armistice, declare the war over, and recognize the special relationship that exists between the two Koreas.[130]  The third and final step is to establish and organize a peace management organization to manage and oversee the implementation of the peace treaty.[131]

      The Korean peace agreement and multilateral peace treaty should be signed within the peace forum to officially pronounce annulment of the armistice treaty and the launch of a peace regime on the peninsula, at which time a peace guarantee management organization will be formed and managed.[132]   This peace guarantee management organization will be operated to maintain a solid peace state on the Korean peninsula and intensify the agreements of the peace regime.[133]

            1.         Signing of an inter-Korean agreement

      The establishment of a durable peace regime on the Korean peninsula entails the eventual replacement of the current armistice agreement with a peace agreement between South and North Korea.[134]  The major contents of the peace treaty are threefold.  First, the principle of peace should be declared.[135]  A strong pronouncement against war should be made by the Koreas both internally and externally.[136]  Second, the assertion that South and North Korea will not use force against each other, nor invade each other, will stand as reconfirmation of the non-aggression clause of the inter-Korean basic agreement.[137]  Third, the principle of unification in an independent way should be proclaimed publicly.[138]  Other areas that the Koreas reach an agreement on should also be included as a sign of their willingness to work together and their dedication to the peace regime.

            2.         Signing of a multilateral peace treaty

      Once an inter-Korean peace agreement is signed, a multilateral peace treaty must be agreed upon.[139]  Specific items to be included in the multilateral peace treaty include: (1) confirming the spirit of agreement in the inter-Korean basic agreement; (2) acknowledging and respecting the special relationship between the two Koreas; (3) ending the state of armistice through legal means and restoring peace; (4) declaring war a thing of the past (legal immunity for war crimes); (5) setting a non-aggression boundary and replacing the current military demarcation line with a non-aggression line; (6) taking actions to build trust through mutual exchange of military information and personnel; (7) transforming a the DMZ into a peace zone aimed towards peaceful use; (8) declaring a principle of comprehensive cooperation in passage, communication and trade; and (9) organizing and establishing a peace management organization to implement and oversee the peace treaty.[140] 

      The treaty could draw on previous documents, particularly the October 2000 joint communiqué and the September 2005 joint statement of the fourth round of the six-party talks.[141]  Of interest in the first document is far-reaching language pledging the two countries to a “new direction in their relations”.[142]  As a first step in that direction, the United States and North Korea agreed that “neither government would have hostile intent toward the other” and committed to “building a new relationship free from past enmity”.[143]  The September 2005 joint declaration, a reflection of changed circumstances is less far-reaching but includes useful language on the need to abide by “the purposes and principles of the UN Charter,” to “respect each other’s sovereignty,” and to “exist peacefully together”.[144]

      The policy of the treaty should be designed with an incentive structure that will induce North Korea to make choices in a positive direction, while making it equally clear that the North will continue to pay a price so long as its policies and actions remain unchanged.[145]  It is unlikely that North Korea will agree to take significant steps to end missile exports, agree to inspection and transparency or pull back its artillery, unless substantial inducements are made clear.[146]  These inducements could include significant package of loans and technical assistance.  United States sanctions should also be loosened to allow North Korea to engage in humanitarian trade for fertilizer and technical assistance for the agricultural sector to recover some degree of food self-sufficiency.[147]  Such government-funded assistance should be pegged to reciprocal North Korean attention to humanitarian issues such as reunions of families divided by the demilitarized zone.[148]

            3.         A “peace management organization”

      A peace guarantee management organization agreed upon in advance will be operated to maintain a solid peace state on the Korean peninsula and intensify the agreements of the peace regime.[149]  Organizing and establishing a peace management organization is important to successfully implementing the peace treaty.[150]  The organization would replace the non-performing Military Armistice Commission.[151]  The members of the peace management organization would include representatives from the governments of North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States.  It is desirable that the peace management organization be locate in the DMZ, and consist of not only military-related personnel of South and North Korea, but also involve representatives of countries that have singed the treaty, on the assumption that the Korea peace treaty is internationally guaranteed.[152]  The organization should consider the involvement of a certain number of civilians as well, to not only reflect the global trend of civilian participation in the peace movement, but also in recognition of the fact that peace and war are serious concerns for all.[153]  

      The organization would also be responsible for overseeing and initiating educational programs and cultural exchanges among civilians of all the peace regime member countries.[154]  One such program would be the planning of international conferences for scholars and political leaders as forums to discuss and debate political, economic, and other issues affecting the peace regime.[155]  Another example would be student exchanges, both inter-Korean and international.[156]  The goal of student exchange programs is to increase the participants' understanding and tolerance of the other cultures.  A specific type of student exchange that would be beneficial in establishing a peace regime would be a University Exchange Program.  Through the program, North Korea and South Korea would establish sister universities between themselves and among the international players.  The students in these exchanges would attend university classes and live in on-site dormitories anywhere from a single semester to an entire education.  Once the program is over, the students would return to their home countries and share their experiences with their families and communities.  This will help increase cultural tolerance and understanding among the countries participating in the program.  It will be especially helpful in establishing inter-Korean relationships, which in turn will enhance public support for the peace regime.

      The peace management organization should focus on inter-Korean cultural projects that are not just short-term, but also long-term.  Short-term projects, lasting one to five years, should focus on inter-Korean sporting competitions or joint parades during the official ceremonies of international sports events.  It could also include exchange of artists, entertainers, and intellects between the countries.   Long-range projects would include participation in an annual national athletic meet held by the two Koreas and creation of annual events celebrating Korean history and culture held in both Koreas and involving people from the North and the South. 

      All of these projects will help the peace management organization encourage communication and cultural understanding not just between the two Koreas, but also among all the international players.  The projects will ensure the participation of average citizens, which in turn will create widespread public support for the peace regime.  Once people see the benefits of the peace regime they will be encouraged to take an active role in ensuring its continuation and progress into the future.

      C.  International Regime Theory Explains Why A Peace Regime is the                                 Solution to Establishing a Permanent Peace on the Peninsula Now.


      It is obvious that Korea is not ready to be unified.  However it is equally obvious that maintaining the status quo is not a viable solution. A peace regime will give the major powers the best possible solution at this time.  It will establish security on the peninsula and create a forum for open exchange of ideas and cooperative negotiations. 

      After the peace regime is established, North Korea will be encouraged to participate actively in the international community and will be given the responsibility for jointly pursuing the security and peace of Northeast Asia.[157]  The United States will support the economic modernization of North Korea through direct assistance when possible, by encouraging the efforts of South Korea and others, and by opening access to international financial institutions.[158]  These things will put North Korea on an even playing-field with the other major players, which is something that generally has not been done in the past. 

      Previously, when dealing with North Korea, the other major players put themselves on one side of the table with North Korea on the other side.  The result was that North Korea often approached such meetings feeling defensive and unwelcome.  They were often the “target” of the meetings rather than participants in the meetings.  A peace regime would take the opposite approach.  North Korea would have an equal say in inter-Korean peace agreement, the multilateral peace treaty, and the peace management organization.  This sense of equality will inspire North Korea to approach further six-party talks with a willingness to cooperate and will make them less likely to violate any agreements reached by the peace regime.

V.  Conclusion

      The time to act is now.  Korea has been waiting in a state of war for over fifty years and it will not wait forever.  The end result could be disastrous if action is not taken by the major players to lead Korea in the right direction.  By utilizing multilateral cooperation, the major players have the opportunity to establish peace and stability on the peninsula in the form of a peace regime.  The peace regime is the best option because it will allow all the major players to achieve their individual interests while creating common interests among the players.  These common interests will be the basis for negotiations and cooperation now, as well as in the future. 


[1] The Korean War began on June 25, 1950 with the North’s invasion into the South.  Three years of fighting thereafter resulted in the signing of an armistice on July 27, 1953, and no peace treaty was ever signed. The two Koreas have remained in a state of war since that time.  See generally Martin Hart-Landsberg, Korea: Division, Reunification, & U.S. Foreign Policy Ch. 5 (Monthly Review Press 1998).

[2] Id. at Ch. 3

[3] Id. at Ch. 5.

[4] Major R.W. Larsen, The Reunification of Korea, CSC 2 (1992).

[5]Language of the armistice available at 1953_07_27_korean_armistice_agreement.pdf (Last visited, May 16, 2007)

[6] Youngho Kim, The Great Powers in Peaceful Korean Reunification, 20 International Journal of World Peace 3 (Sept. 2003)

[7] Morton I. Abromowitz & James T. Laney, Managing Change on the Korean Peninsula 21 (Council on For. Rel. Press 1998).

[8] Id.

[9] Don Oberdorf, The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History xii (Basic Books 1997).

[10] Id. at 3.

[11] Id.

[12] Kim, supra n. 6 generally.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Abromowitz, supra n. 7 at 19.

[18] B.C. Koh, Dilemmas of Korean Reunification 11:5 Asian Survey 475, 476 (May 1971).

[19] Kim, supra n. 6 at 2

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Id.

[23] Joel S. Wit, Enhancing U.S. Engagement with North Korea, 30:2 Wash. Q. 53, 67-68 (Spring 2007).

[24] Kim, supra n. 6 at 5.

[25] Id.

[26] Id.

[27] Koh, supra n. 18, at 495.

[28] Kim, supra n. 6 at 4.

[29] Id.

[30] Id.

[31] Id.

[32] Moon Chung-in, Arms Control & Peace on the Korean Peninsula The Nautilus Institute (June 26, 1997), (accessed May 14, 2007)

[33] Id.

[34] Fei-Ling Wang, Joining the Major Powers for the Status Quo: China’s Views & Policy on Korean Reunification, 72:2 Pacific Affairs 167, 170 (Summer 1999).

[35] Id.

[36] Id. at 169.

[37] Id.

[38] Id.

[39] Id. at 179

[40] Id.

[41] Id.

[42] Id.

[43] Id. at 168.

[44] Id.

[45] Kim, supra n. 6 at 5.

[46] Oberdorfer, supra n. 9 at 5.

[47]  Id.

[48] Id.

[49] Michael H. Armacost, Korea: A Geopolitical Overview, Brookings Institute, index/taxonomy.htm?show=all;taxonomy=Politics%2C%20Global*Regional%20and%20country%20studies*South%20Korea (Last viewed April 14, 2007).

[50] Wang, supra n. 34 at 178

[51] Id.

[52] Id..

[53] Kim, supra n. 6 at 1.

[54] Katsu Furukawa, Japan’s View of the Korea Crisis, CNS, (Last viewed April 25, 2007).

[55] Id.

[56] Id.

[57] Armacost, supra n. 49.

[58] Id.

[59] Wang, supra n. 34 at 178.

[60] Id.

[61] Chung-In, supra n. 32.

[62] Id.

[63] Derek J. Mitchell, A Blueprint for U.S. Policy toward a Unified Korea, 26:1 Washington Quarterly 123 (Winter 2002/2003).

[64] Id.

[65] Id.

[66] Wit, supra n. 23 at 67.

[67] Id.

[68] Id.

[69] Id at 53.

[70] Abromovitz, supra n. 7 at 19.

[71] Id.

[72] Mitchell, supra n. 63 at 124.

[73] Koh, supra n. 18 at 494.

[74] Hart-Landsburg, supra n. 1 at 209

[75] Id.

[76] Id.

[77] Nicholas Eberstadt & Judith Banister, Divided Korea: Demographic and Socio-Economic Issues for Reunification, 2 (Harvard University Papers).

[78] Koh, supra n. 18 at 476.

[79] Id. at 480.

[80] Id.

[81] Hart-Landsburg, supra n. 1 at 209-210.

[82] Abromowitz, supra n. 7 at 5.

[83] Id.

[84] Young-Sun Ji, Conflicting Visions for Korean Reunification, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs 33 (June 2001).

[85] Id.

[86] Id.

[87] Id.

[88] Oberdorf, supra n. 9 at xiii.

[89] Chung-In, supra n. 32.

[90] Wit, supra n. 23 at 58.

[91] Id.

[92] Id.

[93] Ji, supra n. 84.

[94] Id.

[95] See generally Hart-Landsburg, supra n. 1.

[96] Id.

[97] Id.

[98] Id.

[99] Hart-Landsburg, supra n. 1 at 209.

[100] Koh, supra n. 18 at 479.

[101] Id.

[102] Id.

[103] Full text of Six Party Talks Joint Agreement, e-news of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (September 20, 2005), (Last viewed May 11, 2007).

[104] Robert O. Keohane, The Demand for International Regimes, 36:2 International Organization 325 (Spring 1982).

[105] Id. at 337.

[106] Id.

[107] Id.

[108] See Id. generally.

[109] Id. at 329-330

[110] Id.

[111] Id.

[112] Id.

[113] Id. at 337.

[114] Id.

[115] Id.

[116] Id.

[117] Yung-Huan Jo & Stephen Walker, Divided Nations & Reunification Strategies, 9:3 Journal of Peace Research 247, 248 (1972).

[118] Id.

[119] James Goodby, Beyond the Six Party Talks: Prospectus for a Peace Regime on the Korean Peninsula & Implications for Regional Security, Creating a Peace Regime in Korea  (May 17, 2006) docs/0605-Goodby_peace_regime.pdf, (Last viewed, May 16, 2007).

[120] Id.

[121] Id.

[122] Id.

[123] Id.

[124] Id.

[125] Cho Min, The Establishment of Peace on the Korean Peninsula and the Outlook for Unification, 21 (KINU Publications, 2006)

[126] Id.

[127] Id.

[128] Id.

[129] Id.

[130] Id.

[131] Id. at 21-22.

[132] Id.

[133] Id.

[134] Id.

[135] Id.

[136] Id.

[137] Id.

[138] Id. at 24-27.

[139] Id.

[140] Id. at 34-35.

[141] Wit, supra n. 23 at 59.

[142] Id.

[143] Id.

[144] Id.

[145] Abromowitz, supra n. 7 at 17.

[146] Id.

[147] Id. at 15.

[148] Id.

[149] Min, supra n. 125 at 33.

[150] Id.

[151] Id.

[152] Id.

[153] Id.

[154] Id.

[155] Id.

[156] Id.

[157] Wit, supra n. 23 at 58-59.

[158] Id.