Course Adjustments NeededNow that it has become certain that North Korea intends to reform to some degree and open its doors further to the outside world, President Kim Daejung has emphasized that we need to push forward on all fronts to advance our relations with Pyongyang, saying: “Up till now, we’ve been operating like a small retail store. We have to start thinking in wholesale terms.” It is not clear whether this is merely a call for the expansion of our exchanges with North Korea or a statement that the administration will regear its policies toward a wholesale approach to dealing with the North. In any case, the government must come up with carefully thoughtout measures that can serve as an adequate response to this extraordinary change in North Korea. The visit to China by National Defense Commission chairman Kim Jongil has stimulated him to pick up the tempo of opening.
Normalization of Pyongyang’s relations with European countries is also proceeding apace, and the international community is responding positively. It is noteworthy that President George W. Bush telephoned President Kim to request that they meet to exchange views on the situation at the earliest possible date. This is an encouraging development, coming as it does at a time when it was not altogether clear how well South Korean and American policy toward Pyongyang would match up after the change of administrations in the United State. The opening of the North is a basic requisite of peaceful reunification, so this new direction in Pyongyang is a hopeful sign. Of course, we need to help the North make a successful changeover, but to do so, we have to work out our role with extra care, reexamining our entire approach and fixing the problems that have occurred.
Inevitably, during the first stage of rapprochement from the June summit meeting till this most recent change in the North’s direction, mistakes have been made, but as we enter the second stage in NorthSouth relations, such errors can no longer be allowed. In particular, the government must not just push ahead and stage events without any sort of public deliberation of their pros and cons. By doing so, the government has lost much credibility and drawn criticism on itself for conducting a onesided giveaway.