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An Interview With Ex-President Kim Young-sam

Posted October. 12, 2006 07:08,   


Dong-A: Do you still think that North Korea made nuclear weapons with the money provided by the South Korean government with its sunshine policy?

Kim: “It takes more than just money to make nuclear weapons. The key is technology. I doubt that North Korea has such technology, but there are many poor countries with advanced nuclear technologies. The governments of these countries do not have enough money to control their nuclear scientists. I think that the North might have hired one or two scientists from these countries.”

Dong-A: The UN Security Council is discussing sanctions toward North Korea. How severely do you think that South Korean government should impose sanctions to the North?

Kim: “The South Korean government should cut all physical assistance to the North given that they have conducted nuclear arms test. At this point, even humanitarian assistance, including rice and fertilizer aid, should come to a halt.”

Dong-A: One of the major concerns is how the U.S. would respond. Do you think that the U.S. would use military options?

Kim: “Deep down, the U.S. would want to get rid of North Korea using military options. However, with its hands tied up in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, military options are unlikely. At other times, it would be a viable choice, just not now. I believe the U.S. will use all means to resolve the issue but for military action.”

Dong-A: Should the U.S. use military options, are you willing to act as a mediator?

Kim: “If there is anything I can do, I will do it. I have a special relationship with George Bush Sr.. We agreed that we would closely cooperate in case of any emergency between the two countries. If necessary, I am willing to go to the U.S. to meet him in person.”

Dong-A: In the process of identifying North Korea’s nuclear weapons test, South Korea revealed incompetent information gathering capability. How much does the South depend on the U.S. for information on North Korea?

Kim: “We depended almost entirely on the U.S. when I was a president, and even now. The U.S. undeniably has rich information regarding the Korean peninsula and the world. Therefore, a strong Korea-U.S. alliance is critical. Discussions on the withdrawal of wartime OP-CON, and disbanding of the ROK-US Combined Forces Command should be indefinitely suspended.”

Dong-A: People are voicing that the strategic nuclear weapons of the U.S. should be relocated in South Korea.

Kim: “South and North Korea both signed South-North Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in 1991.We kept our promises, while the North did not. The joint declaration was a mistake. We knew too little about North Korea back then. American nuclear weapons should have stayed in the South.”

Dong-A: I heard that you stopped president Clinton from attacking the North in 1994 when the country announced it would reprocess nuclear fuel rods.

Kim: “At the time, a total of 33 warships were prepared to fire in the East Sea. It takes approximately 7 minutes for a jet to reach the North from an aircraft carrier. But, it only takes 1 minute and 30 seconds for cannon shells from the North to reach the South. Seoul would already be a sea of flames should the U.S. attack. Therefore, a U.S. attack was not tolerable. We discussed this issue over about 20 phone calls. I strongly said that not one Korean soldier would budge. The phone calls were direct calls that were wiretap-free.”

Dong-A: Let’s talk about domestic politics. What do you think the current president should focus on for the rest of his time in office?

Kim: “President Roh Moo-hyun should strengthen the alliance with the U.S., and work to establish peace on the peninsula. He should not try to do something new. It won’t work. Because the people do not trust him, public officials, and the international society knows that his time is soon over. Too much is never good. In particular, he should try to not think about who will be the next president.”

Dong-A: You are critical about the current president. But didn’t you introduce him to politics?

Kim: “I never regret. But I think that introducing president Roh to politics was a bad choice. I never imagined that he would become a president one day. He said he would not run for office because he did not have enough money, so I even spent my own money to persuade him.”

Dong-A: Do you think that an inter-Korean summit would be possible?

Kim: “President Roh is very likely to pursue the summit, but the chances are slim. Former president Kim Dae-jung gave 500 million dollars to hold a summit, but president Roh cannot afford to do so. There is no reason for Kim Jong Il to accept the offer when he has nothing to gain.”

Dong-A: There are criticisms that GNP is not doing its role as an opposition party.

Kim: “The Grand National Party (GNP) should take everything at stake to win power. GNP must win, if not, we would face dire circumstances. The people are getting used to North Korea’s policies. Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun governments are responsible for this. Opposition party should fight. In the past, we, opposition party, won the overwhelming support of the people with only 40 seats. The most unfortunate thing these days is that politicians no longer say the word “patriotism.” This is undoubtedly the most important word for any politician.”

Dong-A: Who do you think has the best chances of winning the election next year?

Kim: “I will not comment on that question. But I would like to say one thing. The candidates must not turn their backs after the primary election. For this end, the candidate with the most support of the public should run for office. It is all about the public support.”

Dong-A: The former and current governments were not shy of conflict with the press.

Kim: “In my case, there were times when I had good and bad relationships with the press. But I would not have become president if I did not have the support of the media. Kim Dae-jung arrested the head of three major newspapers in Korea. Only the worst dictator does anything like this. The worst things that he did were illegally sending 500 million dollars to the North, and arresting the heads of major domestic newspapers.”

Dong-A: Anything you would like to say to Koreans.

Kim: “People should have courage, and if they elect a good president in next year’s election with courage, everything will be all right.”