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Reunification policy with substance

Posted December. 30, 2010 11:37,   


Reunification of the Korean Peninsula is the main theme in reports by the South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry and Unification Ministry to the president ahead of the New Year. The three policy goals for 2011 set by the Unification Ministry are prodding North Korea to change in a positive manner; establishing sound inter-Korean relations; and beginning preparation for reunification. The Foreign Ministry also said it will try to secure support from major countries through consultations to prepare for reunification. These messages are Seoul’s de facto pledges to make active efforts toward reunification under a liberal democratic system, which is the hope of the Korean nation and will lay the foundation for peace, rather than just stand by and wait for reunification to happen.

When reunification will come is anybody`s guess, but what is important is thorough preparation. The North’s tyrannical and hereditary system has failed to feed its population, which is less than half of the South’s, and the Stalinist country could face a crisis due to its inability to overcome its own limits. Or the North Korean people could open their eyes to liberal democracy and their desire to elect their own government could erupt.

To achieve peaceful reunification under a liberal democratic system, the first task is to narrow differences between the two Koreas caused by more than 60 years of division. The Unification Ministry will take separate approaches to the North Korean people and their communist regime next year to induce "true change." The ministry also pledged efforts on the governmental level and more support for nongovernmental activities to improve the North’s human rights. The damage and costs caused by division will snowball with time. The longer the North`s anachronistic, irrational and crazy system persists, the higher the eventual burden for the South. In particular, the more progress the North makes in its nuclear development, the greater threat the South will face to push reunification farther away.

Reunification is a complicated equation that requires Seoul to consider all variables of not just Pyongyang but also regional powers such as China and the U.S. If South Korea`s discussions on efforts to achieve reunification end up being just rhetoric without substance, they could instead provoke the North and drive it toward a more extreme brinkmanship. Pyongyang made a provocative announcement Wednesday that it is “operating on a normal footing” a modern uranium enrichment factory with thousands of centrifuges.

While the South Korean Foreign Ministry proposed "reunification diplomacy," Seoul`s relationship with Beijing, a key factor in reunification, has plunged to its worst level this year. Persuading China to support Korean reunification is an extremely difficult challenge incomparable to diplomacy with Beijing following the North`s sinking of the Cheonan and artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island. North Korean areas bordering China have become subordinated to the Chinese economy. China is also taking over profitable coal mines in the North, while Chinese capital has made forays into North Korean marketplaces. If the trend continues, the South could face a disastrous situation of China skimming the cream off reunification despite Seoul`s leading role in reunification.

A reunification policy without substance will put Seoul under attack from Pyongyang and its sympathizers in the South, while causing division in the South. The South Korean government needs to implement a cool-headed, thorough and substantial reunification policy.