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North Korea policy needs update, DP says

Most in the opposition favored reforms to the old Sunshine Policy

Jan 17,2014
More than half of lawmakers of the main opposition Democratic Party polled said in a recent survey that they are in favor of updating the government’s North Korea policy and supplementing the late President Kim Dae-jung’s Sunshine Policy, South Korea’s engagement with Pyongyang.

Kim Han-gill, chairman of the Democratic Party, said Wednesday that while sticking to the broad principle of the Sunshine Policy, the party needs to “upgrade its North Korea policy to reflect the current situation and the change in the thoughts of the people.”

Earlier in the week, Kim pledged in his New Year’s address on Monday to pass a law to improve the human rights situation and the livelihoods of the North Korean people, the enactment of which could mark an about-face in the opposition party’s stance on North Korean affairs. The party has so far been wary of criticizing or offending the North Korean government.

In a two-day telephone survey conducted by the JoongAng Ilbo on Tuesday and Wednesday, 82 of the 127 members of the Democratic Party were surveyed about their stance on North Korea policy.

Of those surveyed, 65 DP lawmakers agreed that its North Korea policy should be upgraded to reflect the times and the changes in the public’s perspective. Nine lawmakers opposed the statement, while eight declined to answer.

When asked whether the Sunshine Policy should be upheld, supplemented or discarded, 56.1 percent of those surveyed, or 46 lawmakers, responded that it should be supplemented.

Thirty lawmakers, or 36.6 percent, favored keeping the Sunshine Policy in its current form, while only one lawmaker said to discard the policy altogether. Five declined to answer.

All those who chose to supplement the policy said that they were supportive of the Sunshine Policy’s basic principles of reconciliation and cooperation, but they said they favored overall reforms to the policy.

“We cannot agree to North Korea’s terror policies,” said one DP lawmaker, who chose to remain anonymous and favored supplementing the Sunshine Policy.

“The Sunshine Policy played a superb role during the [inter-Korean] cold war period, but while keeping with its fundamental principles, it needs to be upgraded to match today’s North Korea and the situation in neighboring countries.”

Another DP representative responded that “while the Sunshine Policy is considered unnecessary, its principles should be adhered to. But the policy has to be adjusted to a suitable level so that it does not appear that we are simply giving everything to the North.”

Additionally, 68 lawmakers, or 85 percent, said they were supportive of the passing of a North Korean human rights bill, while 10 were opposed and four declined to answer.

But some DP lawmakers were less than welcoming of a change in the Sunshine Policy.

“I am not sure why the subject of North Korea came up suddenly during [Chariman Kim Han-gill’s] New Year address,” one lawmaker said.

“North Korea’s nuclear tests and the Sunshine Policy are unrelated to each other, so I am not sure what has to be changed,” added Park Ji-won, the DP floor leader.

But many Democrats who supported a revision of the policy said it should be advanced to match the times or that there was a need for a policy that went beyond simply giving.

Another lawmaker responded, “In reality, it is possible to supplement the policy to make it suitable for a nuclear-armed North Korea.”

Representative Han Gi-ho, a lawmaker of the Saenuri Party’s Supreme Council, said that if Pyongyang had not received support through the Sunshine Policy, “North Korea would have undergone reform and opened like China or collapsed like the Soviet Union.”

At a meeting of the ruling party’s Supreme Council at the National Assembly yesterday, Han also pointed out that over the course of a decade under the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations, the South had provided some $7 billion in aid to the North.

However, he said North Korea’s provocations and pretense of peace contributed only to internal division and “cast a dark shadow over South Korea’s security.”

“Advocates of the Sunshine Policy should not delay in admitting that it has failed,” Han added.


BY CHAE BYUNG-GUN, SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]


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