Hosted by the ambassador for South Korea, Mr. Seung-bae Yeo, at Victoria University’s Pipitea Campus on 6 June, the Institute For Governance & Policy Studies’ groundbreaking talk covered the history of the divide between the US and North Korea, and South Korea’s role as a neigbour to North Korea and an ally of the US. As the South Korean proverb says, “Nothing is possible without trust.” Yeo argued the importance of “rejuvenat[ing] diplomatic process” by taking small but specific steps to bring about the overall goal of the denuclearization of North Korea. New Zealand has a specific role as an ally of South Korea because of the country’s history of being nuclear free – Yeo referenced the prohibition of nuclear weapons treaty signed by New Zealand in 2017 – and its world-renowned diplomacy. Yeo began the talk by introducing the similarities between South Korea and New Zealand, and discussing significant facts about South Korea. Yeo then proceeded to discuss the importance of trying to aim for the goal of denuclearization through diplomatic solutions due to North Korea’s history of war. Yeo reinforced the importance of promoting a permanent peaceful regime in North Korea while also needing to promote and normalize US – North Korean relations.
Yeo explained the significance of the deals that North Korea and the US brought to the recent summit, with all of their nuances. It is because of the headstrongness of both countries that there is currently a stalemate and the recent summit in Hanoi was cut short.
Yeo finished his talk by emphasizing the importance of providing humanitarian assistance, and actively engaging North Korea. However, his belief that North Korea will not return to a policy of confrontation is naive given the history of other dictators, like Saddam Hussein, letting go of their weapons and then being overtaken.
Lastly, we were provoked with an important question – which comes first? normalization of ties or denuclearization? Time was left for audience questions, which was important as there was a stellar list of guests including various ambassadors and journalists.
Overall, the talk was thoroughly interesting and demonstrated the importance of using diplomacy to create change.