South Korea’s Yoon calls for unification

SOUTH Korea’s president lambasted North Korea on Friday, March 1, 2024, over what he called its repressive rule and vowed to achieve a free, unified Korean Peninsula, weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un rejected the idea of peaceful unification and threatened to occupy the South in the event of war.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol spoke on March 1 Independence Movement Day, a holiday marking a 1919 Korean uprising against Japanese colonial rule.

“Now, we must move toward a free, unified Korean Peninsula,” Yoon said in a televised speech. “The North Korean regime relies solely on nuclear weapons and missiles while trapping its 26 million citizens in a quagmire of misery and despair.”

“Unification is precisely what is needed to expand the universal values of freedom and human rights,” Yoon said. “Our unification efforts must become a source of hope and a beacon of light for the people of North Korea.”

Yoon and Kim’s conflicting comments on unification come after Korean animosities have run high for more than two years, with North Korea ramping up missile tests and South Korea expanding military drills with the U.S. in a tit-for-tat cycle.

For most of the 70 years since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, unification was a prized goal of leaders in both Koreas, which are divided by the world’s most heavily fortified border. But the prospects for unifying the rich, democratic South and the nominally socialist, authoritarian and poor North any time soon are extremely dim, observers say.

Despite extensive U.S.-led sanctions and its own economic mismanagement, North Korea has appeared politically stable. Exchange programs between the Koreas have been dormant since Kim’s high-stakes nuclear diplomacy with then-President Donald Trump collapsed in 2019. / AP


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