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Federal System Is Next Unification Step

Posted December. 31, 2005 06:17,   


The inter-Korean issue that is arousing the most interest this year is whether the South Korean government will propose the establishment of a low level federal system to the North.

On December 14 last year, Nam Si-wook, a chair professor at Sejong University and former Munhwa Ilbo president, presented his scenario of unification for the two Koreas. The scenario was brought up when Seoul National University alumni of political science and international relations gathered for a breakfast meeting. According to the scenario, the government will pursue a unified federal system in 2006.

In addition, former president Kim Dae-jung sent a video message to the Global Forum on Civilization and Peace held by the Academy of Korean Studies on December 5 last year, saying, “South Korea wants a union between the South and the North, and North Korea wants a ‘loose form of federal system.’ We should enter the first phase of unification by combining the two options.”

In fact, the former president and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il acknowledged in their South-North Joint Declaration on June 15, 2000, that the two unification scenarios of the South and the North have common features.

One of them suggests that both the South and the North be allowed to maintain their current political, military and diplomatic functions and powers, while the two Koreas jointly set up a body to discuss how to institutionalize the unification.

Once the government decides to establish a simple federal system, the decision will have a tremendous political impact.

For one thing, any such decision is highly likely to draw a deep political line between pros and cons with the 2007 presidential election in sight. In addition, the decision would substantially affect the government’s preparation for an inter-Korean summit whose purpose is peace building.

“The government will prepare for a South-North summit whether or not the six-party talks designed to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue resume. Still, creating a simple form of federal system could be included on the summit agenda,” said professor of North Korean studies Goh Yoo-hwan at Dongguk University.

However, he added that it would not be at the next summit where the foundation of a simple form of federal system will be actually agreed to.

This is because conservative and progressive elements within South Korea will seriously disagree with each other over the following constitutional amendments and related sovereign and territorial issues.

Even Cheong Wa Dae and the government departments that handle North Korean affairs say that pursuing a simple form of federal system is just one of many possibilities. The North Korean nuclear crisis is waiting to be solved, and peace is a precondition to any other next step. Under the circumstances, the authorities view discussions of creating an official union between the two Koreas as meaningless.

Myoung-Gun Lee gun43@donga.com