North Korea has been in the news frequently of late. Many of us in Minnesota cannot help but be curious about the feelings of the countries surrounding North Korea towards that government’s antics. Some insight can be gained from exploring the country of Mongolia which lies to the northwest of Korea. Mongolia is a small country in relative size to the two countries of Russia and China which border the country on every side. Bill Gertz from the Washington Times gives his readers a very brief overview of Mongolia and an introduction the President of that country Tsakhia Elbegdorj.
President Elbegdorj was elected in 2009 and has become one of the region’s most outspoken supporters of democracy and free trade. Gertz quotes President Elbegdorj saying, “while still underdeveloped, Mongolia today has emerged as a model of democracy for the ‘stans’ countries of Central Europe and hopefully for North Korea as well.” Gertz also relates in his article that it was the fall of the Soviet Union that allowed Mongolia to throw off the Soviet control and take back their country and their government. With the help of the United States and the UN, Mongolia now holds free elections and the previous restrictions on free speech and press have been revoked.
Given these facts, one is not surprised to learn that recently, President Elbegdorj ruffled some feathers in North Korea when he spoke at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang (North Korea’s capital). After some opening remarks about historic Mongolia, President Elbegdorj began to speak of freedom and human rights. He said, “Mongolia holds dear the fundamental human rights – freedom of expression, right to assembly and the right to live by his or her own choice…I believe in the power of freedom.” Elbegdorj continued to drive his point home by saying, “No tyranny lasts forever. It is the desire of the people to live free that is the eternal power.”
It was this last that caused a stir in North Korean press. When he asked for questions at the end of his speech, no one volunteered. President Elbegdorj’s whole speech is provided here and I would recommend a read. Perhaps the solution to continued peace between North Korea might eventually come through economic and political means and not at the end of a cruise missile. Now I know your objections; I can hear you thinking of them right now. Until the current government is overthrown can there be peace? Isn’t it better to force North Korea’s hand before they fire a missile at the United States? I would remind my readers that the long Cold War with Soviet Russia ended without missiles being fired. And with the collapse of that great power many other countries were freed. Perhaps it can be so with North Korea. Perhaps the path followed by Mongolia can be a light which the North Korean people follow out of the darkness.