중앙데일리

President says Korea’s time is now

Nation will not take a backseat while denuclearization, other issues mapped  PLAY AUDIO

Oct 01,2009
President Lee Myung-bak speaks during a press conference at the Blue House in Seoul yesterday. [AP]
In an address aimed at encouraging Koreans to view their country as a central member of the global order, President Lee Myung-bak said yesterday that his government will take charge of inter-Korean affairs, particularly the North Korean nuclear issue.

In a media event televised live around the nation, Lee disclosed a vision for a greater Korea.

Noting that Korea’s hosting of the Group of 20 Summit in November of next year will be an opportunity to upgrade the country’s position in the global community, Lee said Koreans must work together to improve the nation’s status.

“Our way of thinking will also have to change from that of a marginal person to that of a main player. We have become one of a dozen or so of the strongest economies. But we have not had a voice befitting our status in the international community,” Lee said.

“Also, it is about time we presented our own visions and perspectives regarding not only inter-Korean issues but also other international issues, taking a leading role. As part of this effort, I proposed a grand bargain during my recent visit to the United States, which is aimed at settling the North Korean nuclear issue with a package deal.”

Lee did not hide his excitement over the decision by world leaders last week that Korea will host the G-20 Summit in November 2010. The president said as many of his foreign counterparts congratulated him, he was extremely proud to be the leader of Korea.

“I am standing here today because I want to talk about the fact that the Koreans are great and that the world is now recognizing that fact,” Lee said. He added that Koreans have made tremendous accomplishments over the past century.

“Significantly, our hosting of the G-20 Summit falls during the year marking the 100th anniversary of the forced annexation of Korea by imperial Japan. I am filled with mixed feelings,” he said. “During the past century, we suffered the pain of watching our destiny fall into the hands of world powers because we were too weak .?.?. Korea has now, however, become one of the leading players in the international community recognized by advanced countries.”

Stressing that the G-20 has emerged as the premier forum of global governance, Lee said it is significant for Korea to host the summit. “The projected hosting of the summit signifies in a nutshell that Korea has finally and completely steered itself away from the periphery of Asia to the center of the world,” the president said.

Following the speech, a brief question-and-answer session was arranged with Blue House correspondents and foreign journalists, which was also broadcast live. Lee again stressed that South Korea must make direct efforts to persuade the North to give up its nuclear arms program instead of relying on the policies of superpowers.

“Until now, Korea just followed others and was passive in the international society and did not have a say,” Lee said. “Now, we are a member of the G-20. We will be the chair nation and the host next year, and the world will treat us differently. It is no longer possible to discuss a global issue without including Korea.”

Noting that South Korea’s voice was absent in the decision-making process over inter-Korean affairs, Lee said past governments simply followed the policies of the United States and China.

Lee stressed that he had sought an understanding with U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as well as the leaders of China and Japan over the “grand bargain” proposal ahead of its announcement, dismissing speculation that Seoul and Washington had some discord over the plan.

“Some said a U.S. official had not been aware of the proposal. So what if a U.S. official does not know?” Lee said in a conspicuously candid manner. “We must make our voice heard. When we have a good plan, we also need to persuade other members of the six-nation talks.”

Shortly after Lee announced the proposal for resolving the nuclear issue through a single-step deal in his speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York last week, Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said, “Actually, to be perfectly honest, I was not aware of that.”

U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly had also responded, “This is his policy. These were his remarks,” fueling media speculation that Lee’s proposal was made without sufficient consultations with Washington.

While Lee said yesterday, “I don’t see any reason that the North will reject the grand bargain, as long as it has an intention to give up the nuclear arms programs,” North Korea made clear its rejection.

In a media report that appears to be the country’s first official reaction, the North’s Korean Central News Agency said a top government official of South Korea had presented a grand bargain plan during his recent U.S. trip, proposing that the North dispose of the core parts of the nuclear programs through six-nation talks while other members provide compensation.

Claiming that Pyongyang has developed its nuclear programs to counter Washington’s hostility, the North insisted that the matter is a bilateral issue between the two. The North said the South’s grand bargain proposal is an attempt to meddle between the North and the United States.

A senior Blue House official explained yesterday that the president stressed South Korea must take the initiative on the nuclear issue because it concerns the country immediately.

“North Korea was a lesser priority for the United States than Afghanistan and Iran,” he said. “For China, the position is maintaining the status quo of the peninsula. There is no disagreement that the peninsula must be nuclear-free, but each country has a different strategy.”

The official said in such a situation, South Korea must present its own vision and persuade the others. “That’s the root of the president’s idea,” the official said.



Election system reform sought

In the media conference, Lee also stressed the need for political reform.

“After my latest trip, I really wanted to brief the politicians about the outcome. I invited both ruling and opposition lawmakers, but the opposition parties practically turned down my offer,” Lee complained. “[Korea’s hosting of the G-20] is not a matter of politics. It is a matter of the nation’s future, but I didn’t have the opportunity.”

Lee said the country’s election system must be revised in order to end the perennial regionalism that splits the Jeolla and Gyeongsang areas and harms effective communication on national affairs.

“The lack of communication continued for decades, and the problem will remain unresolved in the future,” Lee said. “That’s why I propose that the election system must be changed.”

In an address aimed at encouraging Koreans to view their country as a central member of the global order, President Lee Myung-bak said yesterday that his government will take charge of inter-Korean affairs, particularly the North Korean nuclear issue.

In a media event televised live around the nation, Lee disclosed a vision for a greater Korea.

Noting that Korea’s hosting of the Group of 20 Summit in November of next year will be an opportunity to upgrade the country’s position in the global community, Lee said Koreans must work together to improve the nation’s status.

“Our way of thinking will also have to change from that of a marginal person to that of a main player. We have become one of a dozen or so of the strongest economies. But we have not had a voice befitting our status in the international community,” Lee said.

“Also, it is about time we presented our own visions and perspectives regarding not only inter-Korean issues but also other international issues, taking a leading role. As part of this effort, I proposed a grand bargain during my recent visit to the United States, which is aimed at settling the North Korean nuclear issue with a package deal.”

Lee did not hide his excitement over the decision by world leaders last week that Korea will host the G-20 Summit in November 2010. The president said as many of his foreign counterparts congratulated him, he was extremely proud to be the leader of Korea.

“I am standing here today because I want to talk about the fact that the Koreans are great and that the world is now recognizing that fact,” Lee said. He added that Koreans have made tremendous accomplishments over the past century.

“Significantly, our hosting of the G-20 Summit falls during the year marking the 100th anniversary of the forced annexation of Korea by imperial Japan. I am filled with mixed feelings,” he said. “During the past century, we suffered the pain of watching our destiny fall into the hands of world powers because we were too weak .?.?. Korea has now, however, become one of the leading players in the international community recognized by advanced countries.”

Stressing that the G-20 has emerged as the premier forum of global governance, Lee said it is significant for Korea to host the summit. “The projected hosting of the summit signifies in a nutshell that Korea has finally and completely steered itself away from the periphery of Asia to the center of the world,” the president said.

Following the speech, a brief question-and-answer session was arranged with Blue House correspondents and foreign journalists, which was also broadcast live. Lee again stressed that South Korea must make direct efforts to persuade the North to give up its nuclear arms program instead of relying on the policies of superpowers.

“Until now, Korea just followed others and was passive in the international society and did not have a say,” Lee said. “Now, we are a member of the G-20. We will be the chair nation and the host next year, and the world will treat us differently. It is no longer possible to discuss a global issue without including Korea.”

Noting that South Korea’s voice was absent in the decision-making process over inter-Korean affairs, Lee said past governments simply followed the policies of the United States and China.

Lee stressed that he had sought an understanding with U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as well as the leaders of China and Japan over the “grand bargain” proposal ahead of its announcement, dismissing speculation that Seoul and Washington had some discord over the plan.

“Some said a U.S. official had not been aware of the proposal. So what if a U.S. official does not know?” Lee said in a conspicuously candid manner. “We must make our voice heard. When we have a good plan, we also need to persuade other members of the six-nation talks.”

Shortly after Lee announced the proposal for resolving the nuclear issue through a single-step deal in his speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York last week, Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said, “Actually, to be perfectly honest, I was not aware of that.”

U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly had also responded, “This is his policy. These were his remarks,” fueling media speculation that Lee’s proposal was made without sufficient consultations with Washington.

While Lee said yesterday, “I don’t see any reason that the North will reject the grand bargain, as long as it has an intention to give up the nuclear arms programs,” North Korea made clear its rejection.

In a media report that appears to be the country’s first official reaction, the North’s Korean Central News Agency said a top government official of South Korea had presented a grand bargain plan during his recent U.S. trip, proposing that the North dispose of the core parts of the nuclear programs through six-nation talks while other members provide compensation.

Claiming that Pyongyang has developed its nuclear programs to counter Washington’s hostility, the North insisted that the matter is a bilateral issue between the two. The North said the South’s grand bargain proposal is an attempt to meddle between the North and the United States.

A senior Blue House official explained yesterday that the president stressed South Korea must take the initiative on the nuclear issue because it concerns the country immediately.

“North Korea was a lesser priority for the United States than Afghanistan and Iran,” he said. “For China, the position is maintaining the status quo of the peninsula. There is no disagreement that the peninsula must be nuclear-free, but each country has a different strategy.”

The official said in such a situation, South Korea must present its own vision and persuade the others. “That’s the root of the president’s idea,” the official said.



Election system reform sought

In the media conference, Lee also stressed the need for political reform.

“After my latest trip, I really wanted to brief the politicians about the outcome. I invited both ruling and opposition lawmakers, but the opposition parties practically turned down my offer,” Lee complained. “[Korea’s hosting of the G-20] is not a matter of politics. It is a matter of the nation’s future, but I didn’t have the opportunity.”

Lee said the country’s election system must be revised in order to end the perennial regionalism that splits the Jeolla and Gyeongsang areas and harms effective communication on national affairs.

“The lack of communication continued for decades, and the problem will remain unresolved in the future,” Lee said. “That’s why I propose that the election system must be changed.”

By Ser Myo-ja




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