Washington, D.C., United States—Former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence gave the keynote address at the second Think Tank 2022 Forum. The second in the online forum series was held on November 20, 2021 (Korea time), on the theme “Toward Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula.”
The event included panels of U.S., Korean and Japanese experts who responded to Mr. Pence, the 48th vice president of the United States, as part of a lively discussion.
This followed the first Think Tank 2022 Forum, which was held on October 16 under the theme “Religious Freedom and the Reunification of Korea.” Mike Pompeo, the 70th secretary of state of the United States, was the keynote speaker at that event.
The Think Tank 2022 Forums are sponsored by the Universal Peace Federation (UPF). The project was inspired by Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, who co-founded UPF and The Washington Times with her late husband, Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon. Rev. and Mrs. Moon both were born in what is now North Korea and have worked for the peaceful reconciliation of their homeland for more than 60 years.
The second forum dealt mainly with politics. After an introduction by Dr. Young-ho Yun, chair of the Think Tank 2022 Forum, Mr. Pence gave his keynote address. This was followed by questions and comments by leaders from the United States, Japan, and Korea as well as interviews with young people living in South Korea and questions from young Koreans in the audience, including a North Korean defector.
In his introduction, Dr. Young-ho Yun asked whether it is possible to realize a world of permanent peace based on interdependence, mutual prosperity, and universal values. He suggested that the first step on the path to the unity of North and South, to the peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula, is for North and South to agree on a system they can relate to and accept. In such circumstances, proposing a vision for a political system is an essential prerequisite and core undertaking.
That political system will need to be a paradigm-shifting system of thought that is based on new imagination and a new philosophy of peace, Dr. Yun said. Taking a political perspective of an ideal society and nation, Rev. and Mrs. Moon proposed an alternative vision for a new political system based on the principle of common prosperity.
In his keynote address, Mr. Pence emphasized that truly great nations embrace the principles of religious liberty, freedom of speech, democracy and free enterprise, as well as strong families, education, equality under the law, and a recognition of the dignity and worth of every human life.
“These are the values that have united the people of [South] Korea and the United States for nearly 70 years, and are the same values that my late father, US Army Lieutenant Ed Pence — and freedom-loving Americans and Koreans just like him — fought to defend in the Korean War,” he said.
He described how a combination of strength and engagement enabled the administration of Donald Trump to achieve normalized relations between several Arab nations and Israel through the historic Abraham Accords.
As vice president, Mr. Pence said he was honored to convey the message of unwavering U.S. support for the Republic of Korea, first during his visit in 2017, when at President Trump’s direction it was made clear that the era of strategic patience was over.
“Few people imagined that they would see the leaders of the United States and North Korea sitting down to discuss peace,” Mr. Pence said. “At the historic summit in Singapore, we showed it was possible. And nuclear testing in North Korea stopped.”
He emphasized that weakness arouses evil. Therefore, with North Korea once again firing missiles and working to expand its nuclear capabilities, he fervently hoped that the Biden administration would display the same strength as the previous administration.
In conclusion, Mr. Pence affirmed that, despite the many challenges being faced across Northeast Asia, he remained confident that a brighter future is on the horizon – for the United States, for the Korean people, for U.S. allies in the region, and for all who stand strong for freedom and security.
The US panel was moderated by former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich and included Dr. Michael Jenkins, president of UPF International; former U.S. Representative Dan Burton; and U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill, who has worked on Korean issues for 30 years.
The Korean panel consisted of Professor Shin Yul, a professor of political science at Myeongji University; Professor Hyeong-seok Kim, a professor at Daejin University and a former vice minister of unification; Hon. Won-shik Shin, a parliamentarian from the People Power Party; and Professor Geun-shik Kim from the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Kyungnam University.
The Japanese panel was moderated by Masayoshi Kajikuri, chair of UPF-Japan, and comprised Admiral Yoji Koda, who has served as commander of the Self Defense Fleet of the Maritime Self Defense Force; Hon. Yoichi Anami, former member of the House of Representatives of the Liberal Democratic Party and an international political scientist; and Professor Yoshimitsu Nishikawa, professor emeritus, Toyo University.
Topics raised by the panels included:
- The World Peace Summit called for by Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, co-founder of UPF, on the 30th anniversary of the meeting that she and her husband had with Kim Il Sung.
- The difficulty for the United States to remain in sync with its partners and allies, especially South Korea and Japan, when younger generations may not look at these issues the way older generations look at them.
- The possible lessons from the success of the Abraham Accords that could be applied to the question of how to move forward in East Asia.
- The effort needed to establish the desired political system for the integration and reunification of Korea.
- The question as to whether denuclearization really can be accomplished through negotiation.
- The need to “think outside the box,” as Mr. Pence said that President Trump did when he made it clear early on, after some strong rhetorical differences between himself and Chairman Kim Jong-un, that he was more than willing to meet.
- That it is not necessary to choose between strong resolve and dialogue: It is possible to do both.
- The idea of building an undersea tunnel between Japan and Korea in order to overcome the unfortunate history of the two countries and to achieve friendship and economic development in the future, as proposed by Reverend Moon about 40 years ago.
After some interviews with young people living in South Korea, young Koreans in the audience posed questions:
Joon-hyun Kim, a student at Busan National University, asked about the possible effects of the Korea-Japan relationship and the US-China conflict on peace or reunification of the Korean Peninsula.
Na-ra Kang, a North Korean defector working as a broadcaster and YouTuber in South Korea, asked how young North Korean defectors like herself can contribute to peace on the Korean Peninsula in anticipation of the unification of the two Koreas.