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[Editorial] Courting the North

Posted May. 11, 2006 07:08,   


President Roh Moo-hyun, during his recent visit to Mongolia, said he would make big concessions and give institutional and financial aid to North Korea without preconditions. In regard to former president Kim Dae-jung’ visit to Pyongyang slated for June, he expressed high expectations, saying, “I am willing to talk about anything with North Korea no matter when and where.” In effect, he suggested an inter-Korean summit in barter with unconditional assistance.

This is a significant shift in stance. Last July, he said, “Having an inter-Korean summit cannot be the ultimate destination. It is meaningful only when it can serve as an opportunity to solve the nuclear issue and bring the two Koreas closer. But there is no prospect of it happening yet.” We wonder if there is any “prospect” now that he made such an about-face. Speculations about backstage trade with Pyongyang have already arisen, and opposition parties suspect political motivation behind the remarks for the upcoming elections.

To nail down a June 15 inter-Korean summit in 2000, former president Kim offered large-scale economic assistance to the North in March 2000 in his landmark “Berlin declaration,” and even paid $500 million in cash. The memory is still fresh in Koreans’ mind. Kim won the Nobel Peace Prize for that, but the North Korean nuclear problem still persists and social discord in the South got worse. Roh would not have suggested another summit in the same way with Kim if he had any respect for his people.

What is worse, Roh’s willingness to talk about “anything” sounds like he could discuss the “low-level confederation system” mentioned in the June 15 joint declaration as North Korea’s unification method. At that time, former President Kim proposed a “North-South federation system,” saying it has some common features with the North’s low-level confederation. But it is only the second phase of Kim’s three-phased unification method. There are rumors that the incumbent administration is trying to ignite discussions about a confederation-then-unification measure through Kim’s visit to Pyongyang, and pave the way for the next presidential election victory through an inter-Korean summit and constitutional amendment.

Roh also in effect agreed to Pyongyang’s position that Korea-US joint military drills are designed for aggression on North Korea by saying “Korea-US joint drills have many traits that could unease North Korea.” By the remark, he, the military supreme commander of Korea, undermined the foundation of the Korea-U.S. alliance. How could he handle the magnitude of its repercussions? The U.S. will no doubt interpret his remark as hinting to stop pressuring North Korea. We cannot but wonder if President Roh really wants the Korea-U.S. alliance. With such a president, no wonder we have violent demonstrations against the U.S. military base relocation in Pyeongtaek.

North Korean policies should never be used as a political tool disguised as brotherhood. President Roh should know he would face nation-wide opposition if he is to surrender to the temptation.