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Inter-Korean summit is now up to North Korea’s sincerity

Inter-Korean summit is now up to North Korea’s sincerity

Posted November. 04, 2013 07:27,   


President Park Geun-hye said in her interview with a French newspaper during her visit to West Europe, “I am willing to meet (with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un) at anytime if it is necessary for developing inter-Korean relations or promoting peace on the Korean peninsula. She added, “I am against holding a summit simply for the sake of talks or as a one-off event.” This is the first time for the president to make positive remarks on an inter-Korean summit since her inauguration.

Whether to have an inter-Korean summit is one of the most popular questions that have been asked to Korean presidents during their trip to foreign countries, with regard to inter-Korean relations. Since it is a sensitive issue, presidents usually give a textbook answer rather than giving their clear thoughts on it, and President Park’s remarks are also in line with this. Nevertheless, there are some nuances when compared to her previous statements and the South Korean government’s attitude toward the North so far.

In her May interview with a U.S. news agency, President Park answered to the same question, “What effect would it make even if I meet (with the North Korean leader) now?” Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said in August, “(We) are not yet considering a summit, which is aimed at resolving everything in a broad context through the meeting of the leaders (of the South and North).” Considering these, the president’s latest comments can be interpreted as a preliminary answer signaling the South Korean government is to seek new inter-Korean relations. As opposition lawmakers urged to withdraw the May 24 sanctions against North Korea in the parliamentary audit meeting last Friday, Minister Ryoo said that “the administration is also thinking over in various ways,” which draws attention in this regard.

Nothing is more effective than a summit in easing strained inter-Korean relations. However, the inter-Korean summit should neither be a one-off event, nor be controlled by the North’s unreasonable demand for cash or in-kind compensations. An inter-Korean summit was broke down during the Lee Myung-bak administration because North Korea demanded in-kind compensation worth 500 to 600 million dollars. President Park should eliminate such abnormal practices from the past with regard to inter-Korean summits.

Because the current North Korean leader has just come to power and is still very young, it would be difficult to predict to which direction he will lead North Korea. But what is clear is that North Korea cannot end its isolations in the international community and achieve economic development if it sticks to the current inter-Korean relations. In this regard, holding an inter-Korean summit can be a useful strategy for the North Korean leader. If Kim Jong Un takes a flexible approach in such issues as the North Korean nuclear program, globalization of Kaesong Industrial Complex and reunion of separated families, it can enhance the chance for an inter-Korean summit.