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Politicians should end dispute over Northern Limit Line

Posted July. 15, 2013 15:31,   


It is fortunate that parliamentary activities suspended due to Rep. Hong Ihk-pyo’s remarks of “Gwitae,” or the unnecessary birth (of the late former President Park Chung-hee), have resumed with Hong’s apology and resignation as floor spokesman of the party and party leader Kim Han-ghil’s expression of regret. Conflict between the rival parties, however, has not completely eased since Hong’s remarks were not accidental but rather reflect his party’s sentiment to deny the result of last year’s presidential election. Just as serious as Hong’s remarks of Gwitae is one of his Twitter posts. In a Twitter post in April, Hong said, “Park Chung-hee seized the presidency by mobilizing the military and his daughter Park Geun-hye has effectively stolen the presidency by exploiting the National Intelligence Service and police organizations.” Rep. Moon Jae-in, former presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, also claimed, “Last year’s presidential election was conducted in a very unfair manner and President Park enjoyed benefit of it.”

It is true that female agents with the psychological intelligence bureau at the NIS uploaded dozens of Internet posts that can be construed as interfering with the presidential election and police investigation was not fair at best, but these could not have changed the result of the presidential election nonetheless. Remarks denying the election results in themselves represent the Democratic Party’s lack of self-reflection to humbly accept the judgment by the people.

Seven months have passed since the presidential election ended, but members of the pro-Roh Moo-hyun faction within the Democratic Party have made remarks denying the election results in succession, a situation that is hardly normal. The true meaning of the presidential election is change and hope. The people, the master of power, are key factor of democracy determining the force that will manage the state over the next five years. The loser should humbly and sincerely accept the election results and seek an opportunity in the next election, while the winner should do its best in managing the state. But the ruling and opposition parties are moving in the opposite direction. The people are sick, stuffy and tired of political strife that has endlessly continued as if playoff of the election.

There seems to no end in sight to the ongoing confrontation over the NIS’s revelation of the minutes of the 2007 inter-Korean summit, former President Roh’s remarks on the Northern Limit Line, and the NIS’ suspected interference in the presidential election. Worse yet, controversy has erupted over the remarks denying the election results, and abusive remarks by opposition party lawmakers, and the Board of Audit and Inspection’s announcement of results of its audit into the Lee Myung-bak government’s four-river restoration project, placing people’s livelihood low in the pending political agenda. Politics should not move in a direction towards burying issues of the present and future, by focusing too much on past history.

Controversy over the minutes of the inter-Korean summit is an issue that should be resolved in the realm of politics and left to the discretion of the people. The core issue in the controversy over the minutes is whether former President Roh Moo-hyun made remarks to the effect of giving up the de facto inter-Korean border of the Northern Limit Line when he met with late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in 2007. One cannot afford to argue that Roh did not make remarks to the effect of giving up the NLL, just because his remarks did not include the word “give-up.” Calling the NLL “a monster,” Roh said that the line has no ground under international law, and that logical ground is not clear either. He also commented, “the NLL should be changed. I have the same understanding as you, Chairman Kim Jong Il.” The NLL is the de facto inter-Korean border for South Korea. However good the justification of the West Sea Peace Zone (Joint Fishing Zone) is, if Roh was to make concession on the territorial border to the North, which has hardly stopped provocations, this should be construed as giving up of the NLL. The October 4, 2007 Declaration by Kim Jong Il and Roh Moo-hyun effectively became a bounced check with President Lee Myung-bak’s landslide victory in the presidential election.

As the ruling and opposition parties agreed, they must view and examine minutes stored at the National Archives of Korea and compare them with those publicized by the NIS to check any discrepancy. It is possible that the version stored at the National Archives could contain expressions that are toned down compared to those at the NIS. But if there is no fundamental difference, the rival parties have no reason to refuel controversy further. Taking this dispute as a turning point, it is hoped that the rival parties reach consensus on the NLL as “unchangeable territorial border” and wrap up the controversy. National territory and security are core values that nothing else can replace.

Parliamentary inspection of the NIS contained elements of political dispute in the first place, but once the ruling and opposition parties have agreed upon, they should find ways to root out the NIS’ future intervention in politics. As for the NIS issues, President Park Geun-hye and the ruling Saenuri Party are advised to preemptively address, rather than defensively cope with. They should figure out core issues in the dispute and reform the NIS to ensure that the spy agency will faithfully carry out its original mandate. The administration and the ruling party should not completely leave the NIS reform on the agency itself, and instead they should spearhead the effort and present a blueprint for reform that is acceptable to the opposition party and the public.

The Democratic Party is the main opposition party with 127 lawmakers and took power twice in the past. The party lost last year’s presidential election in part because it generated the public’s concern about national security. The Democratic Party says it takes time to reflect upon itself after its defeat in the presidential election, but at this point one can hardly find any hints of such reflection in the party. As the party has failed to accurately grasp the orientation of public sentiment, it has an approval rating that remains at rock bottom. The party’s uncontrolled revelation of its sentiment to deny the results of the presidential election, and disparaging the incumbent president elected by the people constitutes an act of insult to the majority of the public.

The administration and the ruling party are in charge of managing the state. The best strategy for them is not to fight and win over the opposition party but to manage the state properly, so that the people’s choice can be proven to be a success. Since the opposition party is a partner in administration of state affairs, it is important for the ruling camp to persuade and accept as such. The economy is in recession and people’s livelihoods are on titters. If people’s livelihoods deteriorate, it is the government and the ruling party that should be held accountable after all. It would be hardly beneficial for them to give the impression of paying back with vengeance the forces, which afflicted them with pain in the past through the Board of Audit and Inspection’s audit of the four-river project and prosecutorial investigation.

Former National Assembly Speaker Park Kwan-yong expressed concern that if this situation continues, critics arguing politics and political parties are useless could gain ground. It is not a political party, but the political circle as a whole that is facing a crisis at present. New politics should start with magnanimity to accept and embrace the rival, as well as self-control and patience. Otherwise, Korean politics will be labeled “Gwitae” that should not have been born.