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Hard-line on North ends as GNP sets new policy

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July 05,2007
The days when the Grand National Party took a tough line on North Korea appear to be ending with the announcement yesterday of sweeping changes to its traditional anti-communist policy.
The conservative party declared its support for an inter-Korean summit to contribute to a nuclear free Korean Peninsula and a number of measures to continue the policy of engagement pushed by liberal governments.
Coming in an election year, the conciliatory policy places the party’s approach more in line with ongoing negotiations with the North, rather than the past hostility associated with the GNP.
“Until now, the Grand Nationals have supported a containment policy toward the North, but the new policy is more flexible with more of an emphasis on peace,” said Jeung Young-tae, a researcher with the state-funded Korea Institute for National Unification. “In terms of exchange and cooperation programs, the Grand Nationals’ new policy is comparable to the engagement policy of the current administration.”
The GNP also signalled its support for continuing aid programs and movement toward forging a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War.
Since March, a task force led by Representative Chung Hyung-gun has worked on the new North Korea policy. Chung unveiled the policy, titled, “A Vison for Peace on the Korean Peninsula,” yesterday.
No matter who becomes the party’s presidential candidate, the new policy will be reflected in the candidate’s election platform because the shift was endorsed by the party. Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye both indicated their support for the change yesterday.
“Until now, the Grand Nationals have put too much emphasis on the principle of security first, exchanges later. By doing so, we failed to react to the reality of the post-Cold War era in Northeast Asia,” Chung said yesterday. “This new flexible and active policy is aimed at building a community of Koreans to achieve peaceful unification of the peninsula.”
The new policy favors accepting a four-way declaration by the two Koreas, the United States and China to announce an end to the Korean War as a way to establish military trust and resolve hostilities on the peninsula. When tensions between North and South are removed, the party will push for signing a peace treaty. The two Koreas have been technically at war since an armistice was signed in 1953.
Signing a peace treaty is a delicate issue because it means the South would have to recognize the North as an independent state in order to do so.
“We must see relations between the two Koreas not as relations between two nations, but as a special relationship during the course of unification,” Chung said. “We should recognize the North’s political existence.”
The policy includes a plan to aid North Korea’s economy with support missions and large-scale training programs once Pyongyang gives up its nuclear arms program. The party would also guarantee 150,000 tons of rice aid for the North annually under the plan.
The policy set forth seven goals including denuclearization, a more open society in the North, support for the economy and improvements in human rights.


By Ser Myo-ja Staff Writer/ Kim Jung-ha JoongAng Ilbo [myoja@joongang.co.kr]



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