World‘s Expectations Must Be Met Softly, Softly

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World‘s Expectations Must Be Met Softly, Softly

While the eyes and ears of the world turn on the leaders of South and North Korea, it is time to 'give the world an answer,' as National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-il has put it. The two leaders have evidently engaged in more than one private talk - the first informal, in the car from the airport to the presidential guesthouse, and of course June 14‘s official afternoon summit. We hope with all our hearts that the two leaders will begin to provide the answers to the problematic issues on the Korean Peninsula that the world has been waiting for.

The two leaders are thought to have discussed issues including a peace settlement, economic cooperation, and reunion of separated families, as well as stepped-up social and cultural exchanges and talks between Seoul and Pyongyang. In other words, all the issues which are of critical importance between them. The gulf that exists between the Koreas on these issues was made apparent in the summit preparatory talks which took place between high-ranking working-level officials. However, the extraordinary welcomes the South received at the airport as well as the easy and friendly atmosphere evident before the June 14 afternoon summit have lent some color to hopes that inter-Korean issues may be unexpectedly resolved. However, atmosphere can contradict outcome, and in order to achieve real results from the summit, both parties must keep several points in mind.

The most important issue is the fundamental standpoints both sides took facing the summit. Up to now, South Korea has taken as its primary objective the realization of a permanent peace through enlargement of cooperation on the ground. Meanwhile, North Korea has been well-versed in its rhetoric - citing reunification, independence and grand national unity - but has yet to illustrate what means will be used to achieve these ends.

The important thing is, however, that the end goal for each is the same. Resolution of conflict and ultimate reunification are the issues upon which neither nation is prepared to compromise. And North Korea seemed to understand that those goals cannot be accomplished in a three-day summit or a single resolution. It would seem therefore that the most realistic approach would be to begin cooperating with each other on substantial issues for the common prosperity of both nations, while taking political and military issues slowly and step by step. With this in mind, it would seem the priority is for the leaders to confirm that common goals are clear and undisputed, and then to approach the detailed proposals for cooperation from a practical point of view.

A resolution between South and North Korea cannot come with a surprise bang, like the extraordinary welcome. Reunification of separated family must also happen over time, and systems to assure the continuous enlargement of South-North economic cooperation must be clearly agreed. These must be the foundations for discussions on infrastructure, the relief of the power shortage in the North Korea, and attracting global investment.

The international community is particularly anxious to see measures agreed to maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula. For this to be achieved, it is important to establish concrete safeguards against conflict - rather than to announce innumerable declarations. South and North Korea must formally recognize each other, and establish communication channels, such as liaison offices open between governments at all times. North Korea has a chance to amend its reputation as uncooperative through these agreements and efforts, and become a member of international society.

If National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-il were to make Seoul a return visit, it would certainly be an event of great national significance, and the world would confirm the will to peace affirmed by the two leaders.


by Yang Song-chul

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