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[Editorial] Minister: North Apologist?

Posted December. 12, 2006 06:56,   


President Roh Moo-hyun on Monday appointed Lee Jae-jeong, the former vice-chief of the presidential Advisory Council on Democratic and Peaceful Unification, to the new unification minister post. Lee, however, revealed seriously flawed views of state and national security during a parliamentary personnel hearing.

He was not only skeptical over the legitimacy of the South Korean government, but also had a lukewarm reaction to North Korea’s aggressive actions during the hearings.

Lee’s inauguration is contrary to the interest of the general public and the international community that urges the South to make joint efforts in imposing punitive actions on Pyongyang.

When asked which side he thinks caused the Korean War, the South or the North, Lee declined to answer the question during the parliamentary hearing, saying that it is improper to offer a definite opinion. As for the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung, Lee said, “History will be the judge. Much truth has yet to be found about the North Korean leader.” It seemed as if a pro-North Korean scholar, who denies the legitimacy of the South Korean government and considers the Korean War a civil war for unification was giving a lecture. With regard to the human rights violations of North Korea, he said, “There is no evidence.”

As for North Korea’s nuclear weapons test, he said, “In view of the examples of other countries, it was inevitable. So the situation shouldn’t be exaggerated.” However, if North Korea’s nuclear weapons development was inevitable, what was the use of the efforts made for the 1992 South-North Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula? According to Lee’s logic, the U.S.’s pressure on North Korea should be blamed for the communist regime’s developing nuclear weapons and, therefore, Seoul should not participate in international efforts in resolving the North Korean standoff,

Lee’s behavior, however, contradicts the slogan of the Roh administration, which emphasizes moral superiority. Lee announced that he would step down from public office after receiving an imprisonment sentence for delivering about one billion won ($ 1.1 million) in slush funds during the 2002 presidential elections. Moreover, Lee even encouraged Kim Dae-eop, who caused the military service exemption scandal, saying, “You are the one who achieved a great historic feat.” This alone is an enough reason for disqualification. Some speculations concerning the appointment are arguing that president Roh pushed the appointment to hold an inter-Korean summit ahead of next year’s presidential elections.

However, countries that demand South Korea impose strong punitive measures on North Korea like the U.S. and Japan may regard Lee’s appointment as defiance. The international community may interpret the appointment of Lee, who emphasizes internal approaches, as a sign of South Korea’s stubbornness to embrace North Korea, regardless of its nuclear ambitions and development of weapons of mass destruction. This is the highest alert for Koreans who have to live with the threats of North Korea’s nuclear attacks.