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[Editorial] $12.5 Billion Inter-Korean Declaration

Posted September. 20, 2008 09:13,   


The Unification Ministry reported to the National Assembly Thursday that South Korea needs to spend 14.3 trillion won (12.5 billion U.S. dollars) if it wants to fulfill the promises of the inter-Korean summit declaration made last year. No wonder that the previous Roh Moo-hyun administration adamantly refused to disclose the budget necessary to honor the agreement despite the controversy and disputes over the summit’s legitimacy. The Roh administration simply chose not to disclose the astronomical costs, which rival the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s annual budget of 19 trillion won (16.6 billion dollars). An important thing to remember is that North Korea’s economy is 1/36 of South Korea’s. Former President Roh, who is now enjoying a slow-paced, hassle-free rural life, held the summit four months before his term ended, adding a ridiculously heavy burden on the next government.

The joint declaration is plagued with problems mainly because Roh signed it on a whim before assessing its economic feasibility and impact on inter-Korean reconciliation and the North’s denuclearization. Simply put, it was a product of Roh’s blind obsession with the "sunshine policy" and his reckless attempt to leave his legacy, regardless of the consequences and financial burden on the people. Yet he bragged about the summit, saying, “We two leaders were able to reach so many agreements.”

Though Pyongyang has relentlessly demanded that Seoul honor the joint declaration’s agreements, the North has ignored many of them. The North continues to blast the South, breaking the promise of non-intervention and mutual respect. In addition, the agreement to send a joint cheering squad via the Gyeongeui Railway Line to the Beijing Olympics was not honored due to the North’s uncooperative attitude. Moreover, Pyongyang has begun restoring its main nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, breaking the declaration’s pledge to resolve the nuclear issue. The North should reflect on all of these breaches before urging the South to honor the joint declaration.

The two Koreas announced the joint agreements under the glossy title “Declaration for the Development of South-North Relations and Peace and Prosperity.” The agreements, however, are turning into bad checks that both sides cannot honor. It will be interesting to hear what pro-North Korea leftist activists who urge the South to honor the joint declaration have to say about its hefty bill. Insisting on implementing the joint declaration is no different to ridiculing the people. Honoring the agreements will be difficult unless the North gives up its nuclear ambition in a verifiable way.