Cambodian delegation to Korea unification summit offers conflict insights

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The Phnom Penh Post CEO Ly Tayseng (right) attends the virtual International Leadership Conference on April 30, 2021.​ Post Staff

Four Cambodians who are among the leading experts in the nation in their respective fields and industries attended a virtual conference on the reunification of Korea along with thousands of other professionals, scholars and politicians at the International Leadership Conference 2021 (ILC2021).

Various approaches to the issue of North-South Korean reunification were discussed over the three-day virtual conference held from April 29 to May 1 in Korea, Japan, America, Europe and the Middle East, Africa as well as North and South America.

The Cambodian delegation lent their experience and insights to the ongoing search for viable solutions to bring about the peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula, a nation still divided and technically at war for the past seven decades.

Delegation members all agreed that there was a strong sense of optimism at this year’s conference that perhaps signalled the possibility for progress to finally be made on this issue as the Koreans were encouraged to take the lead in this game-changing venture.

The Cambodian delegates included parliamentarian Suos Yara, who was attending a session specifically for parliamentarians.

Former President of the Royal Academy of Cambodia Khlot Thyda attended an interreligious dialogue session to provide a Buddhist perspective to the speaker’s panel.

The Phnom Penh Post’s CEO and publisher Ly Tayseng attended the media session, while deputy director-general of the Asian Cultural Council, Lim Bunhok, represented Cambodia at the arts and culture session.

The conference was organised by the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) under the theme “Toward the Peaceful Reunification of Korea: Creating the Foundation for a Unified World”.

UPF-Cambodia secretary-general Sophal Chamroeun told The Post on May 3 that the speakers from Cambodia shared their personal ideas and opinions as well as the broader Cambodian public sentiment and government positions on various topics, with positive contributions to the event coming from all of the official delegates at the forums they attended.

“It really does take a whole-of-society effort to bring about peace after protracted conflict. It is a combination of politics, religion, culture and economics with all of them centered on finding the greater good together.

“Our delegates’ productive participation at the conference demonstrated the success story that Cambodia has been post-conflict and showed that we are ready to assume more responsibilities and even leadership roles at the international level.

“We feel our own history of conflict and our success in overcoming it does give us some helpful insights into what might bring about a unified Korean peninsula.

“Cambodia is one of just a few nations that have always had robust diplomatic relationships with both North and South Korea. Therefore, Cambodia can potentially play an important role in this matter and we would be proud to further the cause of world peace,” Chamroeun said.

A total of 80 speakers addressed the conference, including nine former heads of state, first ladies and speakers of parliament from around the globe.

UPF-Cambodia issued a statement assessing the pros and cons of reunification, concluding that – on balance – the opportunities far outweigh the risks involved.

“It’s definitely possible that untapped economic development lying dormant now in the North and activated by the resources of the South could accelerate national and regional prosperity,” UPF-Cambodia wrote.

“Addressing the historic divide in Korea would mean ending the stalemate on the peninsula, which would help the cause of peace in northeast Asia and globally. Speakers saw positive developments on the horizon moving forward,” it said.

The conference had nine sessions, each with a specific focus: heads of state, parliamentarians, first ladies and women leaders, academicians, religious leaders, business executives, and media personalities along with culture and the arts.

Nearly 20,000 people from 45 nations registered for the conference in the Asia-Pacific region. An estimated 250,000 viewers watched the conference via social media as it was streaming live.

The closing session will be held on May 8 and then a continued and concentrated focus will hopefully emerge to tackle this issue with the establishment of Think Tank 2022 – intended to allow for in-depth discussions between all of the stakeholders in both Koreas and the region.