Relations between North and South Korea have been one of the most important and vexing topics in Asia for over fifty years. The historic June 2000 summit meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and the South's Kim Dae Jung seemed to mark the first real progress in relations in many years, and set off a search for realistic ways to solidify the nascent cooperation between the two. All at once, formulating a sensible strategy for economic cooperation between North and South became an urgent policy issue rather than an abstract intellectual exercise.
In October 2000, Shorenstein APARC - together with the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies at Kyung Hee University and South Korea's Joongang Ilbo newspaper - sponsored a conference to address the economic, political, and social rapprochement between the Koreas. During the two-day event, participants from government and academia debated strategies for successful inter-Korean economic cooperation and integration in light of the evolving political situation on the peninsula. Beginning with analyses of economic conditions in both Koreas, participants considered lessons that North Korea might learn from reform now under way in China and Vietnam. The feasibility of a North Korean "soft landing" - through economic cooperation with South Korea and the international community - was also discussed in detail.
Based on these preliminary findings, the gathering formulated general directions for inter-Korean cooperation and identified priority areas in specific sectors, including agriculture, manufacturing, energy, and physical infrastructure. Future policies were suggested, for North and South Korea, for the United States, and for the international community.
From the thoughtful keynote address given by former U.S. secretary of defense William J. Perry to the provocative remarks delivered by a host of distinguished international officials and scholars, To the Brink of Peace is a frank assessment of the potential for integration on the Korean peninsula.