Conditions for Aiding North Korea

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Conditions for Aiding North Korea

During the recent fourth round of inter-Korean ministerial talks in Pyongyang, North Korea demanded a total of 2 million kilowatts of electricity and an initial supply of 500,000 kilowatts from South Korea to help alleviate its severe power shortage.

In South Korea, the call is rising to exercise caution in offering an energy supply that requires enormous amount of funds, especially since doubts still remain about North Korea''s true intentions on easing tension and maintaining peace on the peninsula.

To date, the South Korean government''s North Korea policy has generated substantial controversy. Working from a policy of making preemptive concessions and an aid-first, benefits-later position, the government offered fertilizer and food to the North and gave in to its demand for repatriating ex-North Korean spies. North Korea''s reciprocal measures fell short of expectations, however.

During the first Red Cross talks held in June, the two Koreas agreed to establish a meeting place for separated families and to consult and agree on the specifics about its management immediately after the long-term prisoners were repatriated. Four months have passed since their repatriation, but the two sides have yet to open a meeting place or consult and agree on its management. Not much progress was achieved on this issue during the latest round of inter-Korean ministerial talks either.

The two sides had also agreed to hold the second round of defense minister-level talks in November to discuss measures on easing military tension and establishing peace. Again, the talks failed to take place and there is no guarantee whether they will be held.

There are no outlets to discuss rudimentary confidence-building measures for easing tension, such as establishing a military hotline, prior notification of military drills and troop movements, and visits and information exchanges among military personnel. On top of these failures, North Korea is trying to deal only with the United States and leave out South Korea in negotiating and signing a peace agreement, even though the South is the principal nation concerned in establishing peace on the peninsula.

North Korea''s insincere attitude has caused many South Koreans to call for modulating the speed and changing the methods of pursuing rapprochement. They are calling on the government to stop offering aid rashly without receiving anything in return. They demand that it stop kowtowing to North Korea, out of fear of provoking the North, or to encourage Chairman Kim Jong-il to adopt changes. They also demand that it pursue economic cooperation projects only on the premise of North Korean reciprocal measures and in consideration of our financial abilities. The government often compares its economic assistance to North Korea with West Germany''s aid to East Germany before reunification, as if the former had given unconditional aid that only benefited the latter, but this is not true. The assistance was given on strict principles of reciprocity. One example was the West German request to East Germany to withdraw automated weapons of mass destruction along the border when the East asked for 10 billion marks'' worth of economic assistance in 1983. East Germany agreed and the weapons withdrawal was completed on November 30, 1984.

I believe the time is ripe for us to change the methods of giving economic assistance to North Korea. Important strategic material, such as electricity, must be supplied only when we are firmly convinced of the Kim Jong-il regime''s intentions to ease tension and establish peace. In distributing its limited resources, North Korea has so far pursued a policy of giving precedence to the munitions industry over the consumer industries producing the daily necessities for its residents.We could end up strengthening North Korea''s military power if we supply electricity in spite of the conspicuous absence of any changes in its policies.

The South Korean government states that the objective of its policy of engagement with North Korea lies in improving the life of North Korean residents and in dismantling the cold war structure on the Korean peninsula.

In order for our assistance to the North to achieve these objectives, we have to first urge North Korea to convert the resources allocated to the munitions industry to the consumer industry. We also have to demand that North Korea work toward easing tension and establishing peace more sincerely by implementing trust-building measures in military fields and by pursuing a peace agreement signed by the two Koreas.

We have to adopt a policy of giving economic assistance based on its reciprocal measures. Giving unconditional economic assistance will not automatically solve the problems between the two Koreas, not when the structure that caused mistrust remains unchanged.

We have to bear in mind that our assistance could help North Korea strengthen its military power, expand its war industry and prolong and reinforce its dictatorial system.

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