Former American President Jimmy Carter and other members of “The Elders” arrived in Pyongyang, North Korea, Monday, April 25, to seek better understanding between North and South Korea. Carter and The Elders hoped to inspire some compassion, in awareness of an ongoing lack of food in the North. President Carter, (Democrat, served as president January 20, 1977 – January 20, 1981) was hoping to establish some agreements that South Korea, in spite of recent violations and attacks from Pyongyang, would become more humanitarian, in his view, and provide the North with aide in the form of food, fertilizer, and similar needs.
President Carter seems unaware of the seriousness of the current stand-off on the Korean Peninsula. South Korea has indicated it would be prepared to supply aid, and to recommence negotiations with the North, but that none of these steps will be taken pending the long-demanded apology from North Korea for recent violence aimed at the people of the South. On March 26, 2010, North Korean forces attacked and sank the South Korean Military Vessel Cheonan as it sailed in the Yellow Sea to protect crab fishermen and 46 lives were lost. On November 23, 2010, North Korea shelled the South Korean Island of Yeonpyeong in retaliation for the South participating in military exercises with the United States; exercises that North Korea viewed as provocative. During these exercises, ordnance was fired toward the North, although at a distance such as to make impact impossible.
At issue in both of these acts of violence, was the matter of the 38th Parallel. We recall that following the long and bloody Korean War, with the US and the UN fighting alongside the South Koreans and the Soviet Union on the side of the North Koreans, who were also supported by Peoples Republic of China, many of the participants to the cease fire and halting of hostilities sought a continuation of a line of demarcation on the Korean Peninsula; a line dividing the South from the North. The line was originally established following World War ll, but not recognized by the North. When Japan surrendered in 1945. American administrators set the 38th parallel line. At that time, Soviet troops occupied the North alongside North Korean military and citizens.
That line at the 38th Parallel was devised with a demilitarized zone on either side. The North Koreans, and aging North Korean President Kim Jong Il have never recognized the 38th parallel line of demarcation. In explaining to the world and to history his reason for the aforementioned attacks, Kim Jong Il accused the South, and the United States, of attempting to establish a “tacit acceptance” of the dividing line. Kim is set in his ways, and unlikely to alter his thinking. But at the same time, the people of the North are hungry, have a poor economy, and desperately need grain and fertilizer from the South or some other agency. To exacerbate an already bad situation, we know that President Kim Jong Il is trying to establish nuclear weapons capacity for his county. North Koreans are proud, and haughty, and have declared a hatred for America.
Former President Jimmy Carter and three fellow Elders arrived in Pyongyang on Monday to address the poor relations on the Korean Peninsula, as well as the North Korean lack of food. The Elders are a group of eminent world leaders, founded by Nelson Mandela, and including Desmond Tutu. English singer, musician, and songwriter Peter Gabriel was also active in developing The Elders.
Carter’s declaration that the food crisis in the North was due to lack of aid, specifically from South Korea, caused some stir. An official from the South Korean Ministry of Unification decried, “I don’t believe it is right to say whether Carter’s statement was right or wrong, but the South Korean government is looking into the [North Korean food] situation with much interest. We are concerned about the needy and this is why we recently decided on the resumption of aid to North Korea from private South Korean groups.” His position and the South Korean position, is that North Korea must show sincerity in apologizing for the two military attacks before food needs and talks can move forward. To make matters worse for Carter and the Elders, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan told a press conference that, “There is no need for North Korea to talk with us through a third party!” It is noteworthy that the American government points to the fact that Carter is traveling as a private citizen.
At one juncture, some months ago, six party talks with major world nations were being planned, but at that time, too, the issues of the violent attacks, and the North’s decision to ignore world opinion and move toward nuclear capacity made those plans unworkable.