Can We Trust Government Comments on North Korean Relations?The government and ruling party are going far beyond reasonable limits when discussing North Korean relations. President Kim Dae-jung has mentioned efforts to effect a summit talk between himself and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. He has also lingered over possible special favors for the needy North Korea, especially in economic sectors. After these comments by President Kim, high-ranking officials within the government and ruling party are continuously making positive predictions to support the president, by hinting at secret meetings and talks between South and North Korea. The true intention of these comments in support of the government and ruling party is highly suspect.
Hwang Won-tak, President Kim's chief foreign affairs advisor at Chong Wa Dae (the Blue House), acknowledged the fact that North Korea is extremely short on capital. Hwang said North Korea needs to borrow from national financial institutions. He commented that there would be no reason for North Korea to fail in its efforts to acquire loans, if the South Korean government guarantees the debt. He argued that the debt held by our government is manageable. He even presumed that "everything will settle down once the relationship between North and South Korea resolved," without any substance to back up his whimsical talk.
Lee Ki-ho, chief Chong Wa Dae economic aide, provided the figures to prove that special economic favors for North Korea are possible. He mentioned examples of ways to provide special economic favors. He included the Economic Development and Cooperation Fund, North Korean social overhead capital, $5 billion of compensation from Japan to the North over its colonial rule, public support fund from the Japanese government and support from World Bank.
It is extremely inappropriate to mention payment from the Japanese government, as discussions are not yet even over. It is also unbelievable that Lee included support funds from other countries to help North Korea without any hesitation. His argument is unintelligible, considering the fact that he is chief economic advisor to the president. It is truly shameful to the nations mentioned in his rhetoric.
Park Jae-kyu, National Unification minister, announced plans to form a 'peace belt,' an industrial park around the DMZ. He also mentioned that businessmen plan to visit North Korea in large numbers, to visit their hometowns and research investment opportunities. North Korea has opposed plans to build an industrial park near the DMZ, to avoid the public release of military information and facilities. Considering this fact, the 'peace belt' plan can not be held up as a triumph of policy. However, Park and other government officials are extremely optimistic, despite all negative indications. Why does government hide the extremely low productivity and profits recorded by North Korean industrial parks in the past?
Any business connected to inter-Korea relations is a national issue. It can never be dictated by the government. The approval of the national assembly is a definite requirement of debt guarantees for North Korea. Therefore, the cooperation of other political parties is essential. Considering all previous experiences, a careful approach is required in North Korean relation. In addition, wide public support is vital to avoid any negative side affects.
The government must guard against thoughtless comments on North Korean relations. The Central Election Management Committee must watch the comments of Chong Wa Dae advisors to prevent an unfair and unauthorized election campaign by the government and public authorities.