North and South Korea have finally reached an agreement—putting an end to the tense military standoff that could’ve pushed the rivals to all-out armed conflict. In a joint accord, the two countries showed cooperation. Continued cooperation in the future could place South Korea in a position to help impoverished North Koreans.
In the newly established accord, North Korea “expressed regret” for the recent mine blasts injuring two South Korean soldiers. It also agreed to end its “semi-state of war” by pulling back troops deployed on the frontline. Likewise, South Korea agreed to turn off loudspeakers playing taunting propaganda messages across the border.
The two sides also agreed to work towards reuniting families separated by the Korean War. This is an especially significant step in the right direction, as it has remained a recurring point of contention for more than half a century.
Technically, the two Koreas have been at war for the past 60 years, since the Korean War ended with a ceasefire that was never officially ratified by a formal peace treaty. This technicality helps offer insight into the ambiguous, untrusting nature of Korean international relations over the past few decades.
Although countless issues between the two countries remain unsolved, things are at least looking up. South Korea’s lead negotiator, National Security Adviser Kim Kwan-Jin, explained that the agreement could provide a “new momentum” for future inter-Korean relations.
While he could have been alluding to a general improvement in their international relationship, his statement potentially carries even more meaning. Improved international relations between the two Koreas could specifically signify major changes for struggling North Koreans unable to escape poverty on their own.
In recent years, South Korea has become an increasingly influential power in global arenas. Rapid industrialization, economic modernization and an essential transition from dictatorship to democracy all worked together to achieve this important transition.
South Korea has emerged as a bridge connecting developed and developing nations.
Key leadership positions fulfilled by South Koreans have worked to solidify the country’s new role in world affairs. In March 2012, the Obama administration nominated President Jim Yong Kim, born in Seoul, Korea, as president of the World Bank. Presently, Ban Ki-moon of South Korea serves as secretary-general of the UN.
The original vision of the United Nations was to achieve an important balance: The UN was established in order to address the goals of the most powerful nations while still achieving inclusive global representation for underdeveloped countries. Leaders like Ban and Kim are working to achieve such global inclusion.
More and more, market economies and fairly representative governments are characterizing developing nations. Given this new trend, South Korea is ideally positioned to play a leading role in reducing global poverty.
Although it is tough to predict exactly what this means for North Korea, agreements like this are at least a step in the right direction. As our world becomes more interconnected, transnational issues like poverty can more feasibly be tackled from multiple sides.
– Sarah Bernard