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North Korea Should Transform Its Regime By Itself

Posted December. 24, 2004 22:40,   


Unification Minister Chung Dong-young said on December 23, “We do not oppose North Korea’s regime transformation. Yet, the difference between the Korean and the U.S. governments is the methodology.”

Visiting China as President Roh’s presidential personal envoy from December 21 to 24, Minister Chung held a gathering with the journalists traveling together in Shanghai on that day and elucidated as above, adding, “It is the participatory government’s consistent belief to lead the North to transform its regime under its own choice.”

During his visit to China, Minister Chung made clear that he was against the “U.S. idea of regime transformation,” saying, “There are discussions (within the U.S.) about regime transformation and the collapse of North Korea, but it is far from the Korean government’s position. No nation can force others to transform their regimes and cultures by its own standards.” This remark seems to be made out of an awareness of Pyongyang, which has been showing allergic responses to the U.S.’ regime transformation idea. For that reason, what Minister Chung said about “North Korea’s own regime transformation” is in the spotlight.

Regime Transformation by the U.S. versus Spontaneous Regime Transformation –

“What is sure is that external pressures have no effect on North Korea’s regime,” said Minister Chung at the gathering. Despite National Security Advisor appointee Steven Hadley’s recent comment, “The U.S.’ idea is to transform the North Korean regime gradually,” Chung stressed again that external pressure cannot bring about a regime transformation.

A core authority who accompanied Minister Chung to China also said, “The minister’s remark is starkly different from the U.S.’ version of regime transformation, which tries to lead a regime transformation including economic reform and liberalization via the North Korea Human Rights Act or economic sanctions.” In other words, Minister Chung’s idea for regime transformation is that it should be spontaneous, which encourages Pyongyang to choose regime transformation by itself.”

The Limits of a Spontaneous Regime Transformation-

The greatest limit is that Korea has no leverage to drive North Korea’s “spontaneous regime transformation.” An authority who asked for anonymity said, “Whether it is nuclear or inter-Korean talks, North Korea ultimately holds the key to the resumption of the talks. Although (we) want to make use of a special envoy to the North, or hold a summit, it is difficult because the time is not ripe.” Thus, President Roh’s comment made regarding the inter-Korean summit during the dinner party with the leaders of the ruling party and the government on December 23, “It is not a matter that can be settled by hurrying impatiently,” falls in the same line.

Under such a situation where Korea has little leverage, there are worried voices within the government that discussing “regime transformation” itself, even under the premise that it is “spontaneous,” unnecessarily agitates North Korea.

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