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U.S. envoy calls for revival of Kim Dae-jung’s unification vision

Through the late South Korean President Kim Dae-jung’s reconciliatory ideals, Seoul and Washington should work together on achieving a reunified, peaceful Korean Peninsula, U.S. Ambassador Kathleen Stephens said during a recent Memorial Day ceremony.

Stephens published on her weblog the speech she gave at a national park in Jindo on June 6 Memorial Day.

“On this Memorial Day … we honor the memory of President Kim Dae Jung and remember … vision of eventual reunification through reconciliation,” Stephens quoted herself as saying. “We look forward to the day when the whole Peninsula is free and all Korean people experience a reconciliation befitting the sacrifice we honor.”

The speech by Washington’s top diplomat in Seoul comes as the two Koreas have been experiencing the worst ties in a decade with neither side willing to shift position for dialogue.

Ex-President Kim’s tumultuous life fighting for democracy and reconciliation with North Korea led him to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000, shortly after the first inter-Korean summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. The former president died from complications of pneumonia in 2009.

The decade-long reconciliatory mood between the two Koreas, who are technically still at war, took a turn after the right wing Lee Myung-bak government took power in Seoul in 2008, halting unconditional aid and demanding visible denuclearization efforts by Pyongyang.

Discomforted by the change of attitude, North Korea conducted two deadly attacks against Seoul in March and November last year, killing up to 50 South Koreans.

“In the immediate aftermath of the Korean War, the Republic of Korea’s prospects looked dim. Looking back, it is clear that those sacrifices were not in vain,” Stephens also said during her speech. “The hard work and sacrifice of millions of Koreans since that time has created one of the greatest national success stories in modern history.”

“The United States is honored to be a partner of this great nation,” she added. “But our work is not finished. We should work together to create an even brighter future, one that includes all of Korea and Northeast Asia.”

The 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a permanent peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas in high military tension for nearly six decades.

Washington, which fought on Seoul’s side during the war, is also one of the key members of the multinational negotiations aimed at denuclearizing the North.

Stephens, who has been running the weblog under her Korean name Shim Eun-kyung, will return to Washington this August, replaced by Sung Kim.

The top diplomat, who served as a Peace Corps volunteer to Korea during the 1970s, has been running the blog, a much visited corner of the American embassy’s official online community site Cafe USA, since she took office three years ago.

By Shin Hae-in (hayney@heraldcorp.com)
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