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Bush? Kerry? Prospect for Influence on the Korean Peninsula

Bush? Kerry? Prospect for Influence on the Korean Peninsula

Posted November. 02, 2004 23:01,   


If you compare the R.O.K.-U.S. alliance to a conjugal tie, President Roh has to work on harmonizing the relationship with the winner of the U.S. presidential election for some three years.

Quite a few observe that the progressive "participatory" Korean government goes better with John Kerry of the Democratic Party than conservative President George W. Bush, but there are tantamount counterarguments that "it may not necessarily be true," individually considering the major pending issues between the two countries including the North Korea nuclear issue, troop dispatch to Iraq, and the realignment of the alliance.

Two Candidates, Yet One Security Policy -

According to the survey conducted by the Uri Party`s Representative Choi Sung, who is a member of the Unification, Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee in the National Assembly, on 160 officials above the level of secretary from the Unification and Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministries, the preference for candidate Kerry is higher than that for President Bush regarding the amelioration of North Korea-U.S. relationship.

To the question, "Who will ameliorate the North Korea-U.S. relationship?," the answer "Kerry" won the support of 58 percent among the officials of the Unification Ministry, but "Bush" did not win a single vote. Although the most-answered response by the officials in the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry to the same question was, "There will not be any significant changes no matter who wins (61 percent)," 37 percent indicated Kerry would be better than Bush (1 percent) concerning the amelioration of the North Korea-U.S. relationship.

Despite such expectations by the public officials, experts see that a change of administration may bring about a mood change in the R.O.K-U.S. or North Korea-U.S. relationship in the short-term, but it will not lead to a systemic change or amelioration.

In the policy report, "2004 U.S. Presidential Election and the Korean Peninsula," issued on November 1 by the National Security Panel of the East Asia Institute (Commissioner Ha Young-sun, professor at Seoul National University), it is clarified, "Although American society was divided into two portions in the presidential election, its security policy is one."

The report points out that as the U.S. will pursue anti-proliferation of WMD and anti-terrorism as its utmost priorities in its foreign affairs and security policy, there will not be any change in the framework of a strong North Korea policy no matter if President Bush or candidate Kerry is elected.

Professor Lee Jung-hoon of the Graduate School of International Studies at Yonsei University said, "The six-party-talks (Bush) and the juxtaposition of bilateral talks (Kerry) is only a methodological difference, so there is no change to the ultimate objective of a ‘complete, irreversible dismantlement and thorough verification’ of the North Korea nuclear programs."

What is the Future for Pending Issues between South Korea and the U.S.? -

A government authority said, "In terms of a situational change in Iraq, Kerry is better, and in terms of continuing the six-party-talks regarding the North Korea nuclear issue, I think Bush is better." Concerning some expectations that Kerry`s election can delay the deadline of force reduction of the USFK, an authority of the Defense Ministry answered, "There will not be significant changes as Korea and the U.S. have already agreed to the extent and date of the force reduction."

Past Government Relationship between South Korea and the U.S. -

The best example of the worst "harmony" was the relationship between Park Jung-hee and Jimmy Carter`s regimes. The relationship between Korea`s ex-President Chun Doo-hwan and then-U.S. President Reagan was a honeymoon; despite the Korean government`s weak legitimacy, the common ideology of "anti-communism" pulled off the R.O.K.-U.S. relationship. Although ex-President Kim Dae-jung had a honeymoon relationship with Bill Clinton`s Democratic Party administration, it did not go well with the Bush administration.

Professor Kim Sung-han of the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security said, "Korea and the U.S. should iron out differences in perception such as that regarding North Korea`s nuclear threats, lest the U.S. should turn to `narrow unilateralism` in which the U.S. consults with Korea but ultimately carries through with its position, which is highly probable."

Hyong-gwon Pu bookum90@donga.com taewon_ha@donga.com