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[Opinion] The Strange Lee Jae Jeong

Posted November. 16, 2006 06:12,   


At a lecture yesterday, Lee Jae-jeong, who is expected to serve as the next minister of unification, said, “The Bush Administration should refrain from its policy that seeks regime demolition in North Korean.” He gave the lecture in English, and used the term “demolition,” which means, “to destroy completely.” Had U.S. government officials heard this, they would have been taken aback. They had replaced the expression “regime change” with “change of regime behavior” in the past because the former was deemed too strong. They would have wondered how negative a view he had to use such a negative expression.

Lee, who is also the deputy chief of National Unification Advisory Council, mentioned the Korea-U.S. alliance, saying, “Close, mutual cooperation is desirable, but it should not act as an obstacle against determining our nation’s fate.” This comment is also not understandable. He might believe that the “nation’s fate” is “to establish an autonomous independent government for reunified Korea,” but if he believes doing so is possible in the current situation, he really is an immature, silly unificationist. How could such words be said after the North Korean nuclear testing?

Being an Anglican priest-turned-politician, Lee has never studied North Korea deeply or faced it directly. Yes, he had been involved in the unification movement, but some people say, “He would have been better off without the unification movement experiences.” What they are saying is that when one is ignorant, a modest attitude to learn will prevent mistakes. The unification minister post should not be taken lightly, but some former ministers of unification with shallow experiences bungled things.

The current minister, Lee Jong-seok, who was acknowledged in the academic circle as a North Korea specialist, was unable to avoid such hardships. He has hardly accomplished anything during his term. Moreover, a minister of unification has to take general charge of foreign affairs and security policies as the head of the standing committee of the National Security Committee in case the president inaugurates him. Would a future minister who wonders, “Why would the U.S. ignore the normalization of the NK-U.S. relationship” be able to perform such duties? The confirmation hearing is slated for November 17, and I cannot help worrying.

Editorial Writer Han Gi-heung, eligius@donga.com