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South-North Summit

Apr 11,2000
The summit meeting between South and North Korea will be an event of historical significance. President Kim Dae-jung and National Defense Committee Chairman Kim Jong-il are ushering in a new era of reconciliation, cooperation, and peace.

The achievement of the summit could be interpreted as a result of President Kim's 'sunshine policy' of engagement. However, President Kim's endeavor to dismantle the cold war structure and find a solution to the distrustful relations between the two Koreas has been fraught with difficulties.

Despite his efforts toward reconciliation and an all-embracing policy, the North remained with suspicious and cold. They regarded the sunshine policy as a distorted attempt to absorb the North and refused to meet for talks. Over the last two years vice ministers from both sides have met twice, but the meetings led to no improvements in the relationship between the two Koreas.

However, the South Korean government's policy, based on the two prongs of politics and economics, has worked well. As a result, civilian interchange, including economic cooperation between business people, has been active.

The government has repeately requested talks, but North Korea set up stumbling blocks by imposing preconditions on talks in February last year. They demanded that the South's government break up military cooperation with the United States, abolish the National Security Law and guarantee the freedom of anti-government political activists to campaign.

President Kim's Berlin Declaration of March 3, however, proved a breakthrough in the stalled status of the talks. The declaration inspired the positive interaction of the North, and has thus been evaluated as a historic milestone in the relationship between the two countries.

President Kim's two-pronged policy has opened the door to economic cooperation between the two sides, and South Korea is now wide open to the economic demands of the North. Cooperative economic initiatives by Hyundai, Samsung, and others, have revealed that the top item on North Korea's agenda in the summit meeting is the recuperation of the North's gasping economy. This is the goal personally sought by the chairman, Kim Jong-il. Chairman Kim's intentions have been passed on to the Chong Wa Dae (presidential Blue House) several times through these liasons.

As the background to the realization of the summit, Chairman Kim announced an all-out effort toward economic rehabilitation under the banner of "building a strong nation."

It seems Chairman Kim had given a lot of thought to who would make his best partner in negotiations. He looked to China and Russia - the North's traditional allies - and gave consideration to Japan and the United States. Recently, he even pondered Europe as his possible economic partner. In the end, he chose the South Korean government itself, led by President Kim.

It is thought that Chairman Kim realized that other countries would be limited in their ability to assist the ailing North Korean economy. Korea was the only country able to lend the North full support with its all-embracing policy.

Through the summit, President Kim will put an end to the cold war that now exists between the two countries and accomplish the reunion of families separated by the Korean War, as agreed in the 1991 Basic Agreement between the South and North.

There will be some controversy over the economic assistance given to North Korea as it is unlikely to yeild short-term material benefits for the South. However, the South's government has highlighted the polictical effects of reconciliation, cooperation, and the peaceful coexistence of two countries technically out of a war state more than any material economic advantages.

Dismantling the cold war means an escape from the terror of neuclear-headed missiles and other weapons of mass destruction.

by Yoo Young-gu




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