(Part 1 of 3)
(Remarks of Hon. Jose De Venecia, Former Speaker, Philippine House of Representatives; Founding Chairman, International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP); Co-Chairman, International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP); Chairman Emeritus, Universal Peace Federation (UPF);
Special Envoy of the President to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and for Intercultural Dialogue at the UPF International Leadership Conference 2018 “Building a World of Lasting Peace: Interdependence, Mutual Prosperity and Universal Values” Seoul, Republic of Korea; February 18-22, 2018.)
Excellencies, friends, ladies and gentlemen,
We are honored to welcome you all to this UPF International Leadership Conference 2018.
We thank the Universal Peace Federation (UPF), the much-loved leader, Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, the spirit and legacy of the late Rev. Sun Myung-Moon, founder of UPF and its successful global outreach, and its outstanding President, Dr. Thomas Walsh.
Extraordinary moment: North and South Korean athletes walk side by side under “unification” flag
Excellencies, friends: At the opening ceremony of the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics several days ago, the North and South Korean athletes marched together behind a blue-and-white “unification” flag for the first time in more than a decade.
It was an emotionally charged historic moment, which sends a powerful signal that peace, though it may be difficult, elusive, and distant, is not impossible.
We in the UPF and the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP) applaud Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jong-Un for sending a high-level delegation, including his sister, Kim Yo Jong, to the Pyeongchang Olympics and for perhaps creating the beginnings of the Seoul-Pyongyang informal or formal talks.
These laudable gestures have raised hopes for peace and reconciliation in the Korean Peninsula.
We equally commend South Korean President Moon Jae-in for his vision, leadership and initiative in carving out a new path to signal better relations between the two Koreas.
We hope that the North and South Korea display of unity at the Pyeongchang Olympics will be built upon and serve as harbinger of a new chapter in political and economic engagement in the Korean Peninsula, and, to quote President Moon Jae-in, “a precious starting point for a step toward world peace.”
Transfer of ICAPP Secretariat from Manila to Seoul
In 2006, as my small, humble contribution in helping encourage direct talks between Seoul and Pyongyang, I transferred from Manila to Seoul the Secretariat of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), which I founded and established in Manila in September, 2000 and of which I am Chairman of its Standing Committee up to now. The ICAPP Secretariat is now most active in Seoul and headed by Secretary General Park Ro-byug, an experienced South Korean diplomat, and by my Co-Chairman, now South Korean National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong.
I am proud to inform you that since we formed ICAPP in Manila in 2000, ICAPP now counts some 350 ruling, opposition, and independent parties from 52 countries in Asia, and the Korean Workers Party of North Korea is a member of ICAPP.
Ideological differences shouldn’t get in the way
Excellencies, friends: In Northeast Asia today, we need to develop pragmatic and creative methods that will try to rebuild North-South relations in the Korean Peninsula—without hopefully allowing too many of the ideological differences to get in the way.
My interest in such an outcome is personal as well as professional—because my earliest voluntary errands in Philippine foreign policy involved North Korea. In 1990, I visited Pyongyang as then acting Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Relations, in an informal pioneering effort to try to open Philippine diplomatic relations with North Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)—to try to discourage it at the time from giving material and moral support to guerrillas of the Communist New People’s Army (NPA) in the Philippines.
This was at a time Pyongyang itself was also trying to broaden its East Asian friendships; and I met with the North Korean leader, President Kim Il Sung, at his mountain villa north of Pyongyang. I was accompanied then by Filipino Congressman Miguel Romero, now deceased, Philippine business leader Len Oreta, who is married to the younger sister of the late Sen. Benigno Aquino, Sen. Teresa Aquino-Oreta, and civic and education leader Nestor Kalaw.
Despite his forbidding reputation, I found the legendary Kim Il Sung widely and keenly interested in the outside world: our appointment of ten minutes stretched to more than one hour as he and I exchanged views on many issues. I was later informed it is rare that he entertains visitors for a long period.
When I inquired into the possibility of another war on the Korean Peninsula, he dismissed the liability outright. Conflict would be foolish—he said emphatically—it would only cause “mutual destruction” in both North and South Korea that neither side could afford to suffer. In no uncertain terms, he told me: “If we attack the South, the South will be destroyed. But we in the North will also be destroyed.”
Thus, when today Pyongyang, with leader Kim Jong-Un, his grandson, and previously his son, Kim Jong-Il, rattles the sounds of war in the Korean Peninsula, I remember those words of practical wisdom from the late Kim Il Sung.
Most importantly, at the same time, in response to my request and appeal, Kim Il Sung did me and my colleagues honor and he promised and indeed put in writing that North Korea would not give aid and comfort to our Filipino NPA guerrillas—who had, by then, been fighting to overthrow the Philippine State for more than two decades. President Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea, told me that by the time we leave for Beijing en route to Manila, the North Korean government would have the letter ready. And he kept his promise.
Philippines-North Korea diplomatic relations
And on my invitation, President Kim Il Sung sent to Manila, a few weeks after I left Pyongyang, his Deputy Premier Kim Dahl Hyun to finalize the agreement with our then Foreign Secretary Raul Manglapus, which expeditiously resulted in diplomatic relations between Manila and Pyongyang.
That was the most successful result of our trip to North Korea.
Today the North Korean Ambassador in Bangkok is accredited to Manila, presents his credentials to the Philippine President in Manila, and visits Manila from time to time. Similarly, our active Ambassador in Beijing is accredited in Pyongyang.
I had since turned over to then President Corazon Aquino, the beloved late President, the priceless North Korean document signed by North Korean Deputy Premier Kim Dahl Hyun committing the North Korean Government not to give aid and comfort to the insurgent Philippine New People’s Army. I specifically asked this document from the President of North Korea (DPRK) and he authorized Deputy Premier Kim to sign it and handed to me. I in turn proudly presented the document to then President Cory Aquino in Malacanang Palace when we returned to Manila. n
Yes, through thick and thin, that agreement which we forged in Pyongyang in the summer of 1990 has kept our two states friendly and cooperative until now.
I must say that I have since developed close relations with the CPP-NPA-NDF leaders Jose Maria “Joma” Sison; my high school classmate at De La Salle Luis Jalandoni, then CPP-NPA-NDF chief negotiator with the Philippine government on the peace talks, and now senior adviser; and with Fidel Agcaoile, their new chief negotiator, and have helped push over the years, and hopefully success at some time, sooner than later, a final peace agreement with our Communist brothers at home. (To be continued next week)