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[Editorial] North Korean Engagement Policy Must Be Balanced

[Editorial] North Korean Engagement Policy Must Be Balanced

Posted October. 12, 2005 07:04,   


Before the Mt. Geumgang Unification Visit on July 15, 10 people with prior espionage records received Ministry of Unification approval to visit North Korea. Among the 10, five were discovered to be members of the North’s Worker’s Party dispatched to spy on the South. One even infiltrated a South Korean military post during the Korean War and killed five South Korean soldiers.

The Ministry of Justice and the National Intelligence Service opposed giving them approval to visit the North, but were disregarded.

The unification ministry gave approval to 520 people who requested permission to visit North Korea to see the North’s mass gymnastic and artistic performance called “Arirang” last month and this month without consulting with the justice ministry. This is a microcosm of inter-Korean government exchanges in the Republic of Korea. It seems that national identity, dignity, law, and principles have all been abandoned.

There is no one opposing reconciliation and cooperation of the two Koreas. Human exchanges are also important. However, the national foundation should not be weakened in the process. What can be acquired by shaking the constitutional morals, free democracy, market economy and constitutional government, and the country’s basic order? The unification ministry quibbles that it is not breaking the law.

The unification minister also says he has the authority to approve who can visit North Korea, and the opinions of related organizations are just references. Is this so? Every law and its application are bound to the constitution. People who have already made unconstitutional acts and are apprehended should not be given permission to visit the North. This is what constitutional morals are.

It is now the time to look into the rights and wrongs of this chaos. The North-South Korean relationship must be based on an institutional and mutual reliable foundation. North Korean engagement policies are no exception. There must be principles and a consistency in which the people can live with. The prime minister threatened that those who damage the North Korean flag will be severely punished, and did not approve of waving the country’s national flag at soccer matches. He did approve the provision of immense amounts of fertilizer, food, and electricity to the North, however.

But nothing has changed in North Korea. They have called this year the first year of withdrawal of U.S. soldiers from South Korea and have prompted their sympathizers to alienate the South and the U.S.. They have threatened management personnel from of private companies and pitted South Korean companies against each other to receive more money from North Korean tourism. Is this really a change? The phrase that comes to the minds of many when they hear the phrase “inter-Korean talks” is “what will our country give to the North this time?”

What is more serious is that this government’s biased view towards North Korea and its easygoing principle of “nation first” are pushing the entire society into an anachronistic left-leaning position. Protests to remove the statue of U.S. general Douglas MacArthur and statements from intellectuals denying national legitimacy are one thing; the head of the ruling party making opposition to judicial action is another. How has the country become one in which the instigation of leftist pro-North Korea forces is “freedom of idea and conscience” while the conservative right wing which criticizes this is seen as committing “anti-Korean” crimes? It is even being said, mockingly, that the country has already turned communist, and all there is left to be done is unification.

There should be a change in ideas. The progress and soundness of policies regarding the North are two different things. The people of the country want a sound relationship between the two Koreas in which they make exchanges, cooperate through international regulations, and reciprocate to evolve into a better society. We must stop making attacks to valid criticisms brought up inside the country of the country’s North Korea policy. Being lenient to the Kim Jong Il government is neither progressive nor moral. Can those who remain silent about North Korean human rights be labeled as progressive, while those with conservative viewpoints are labeled dunces?

We must return to the principles of law. The punishment-compensation principle must be firmly set. This is the way to help the North, just as bitter medicine is good for the body. The market economy principle should penetrate into the exchanges and cooperation between the two countries. Former home affairs minister Kim Doo-kwan mentioned the possibility of President Roh visiting the North, but prior to this, making political use of North Korea policy or challenging the government with it must be abandoned. President Roh must lead the way out of the disorder surrounding inter-Korean exchanges.