[EDITORIALS]An article of contention

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[EDITORIALS]An article of contention

Article 2 of the June 15 South-North Joint Declaration signed in 2000 has emerged as a hot political issue between the two presidential candidates, and has fueled a dispute between the Grand National Party's presidential nominee, Lee Hoi-chang, and the Blue House. The article states that there are common elements in the South's proposal for a "confederation" and the North's proposal for a "federation of lower stage."

The dispute should unfold constructively to produce earnest and detailed discussions about reunification of the two Koreas.

Speaking Wednesday at the Kwanhun Club, an organization of senior Korean journalists, Mr. Lee said, "Should I become president, I will seek to clarify Article 2 of the Joint Declaration." He added: "Should North Korea claim that with the article the South has agreed to their proposal, I will be sure to raise an issue." Mr. Lee said he will eradicate Article 2, but later took a softer tone.

Mr. Lee's comment has riled Roh Moo-hyun, the presidential candidate of the Millennium Democratic Party, and the Blue House has strongly protested. Mr. Roh criticized Mr. Lee for holding onto a Cold War mentality, and the Blue House said Article 2 does not veer from the South's long-held three-stage process of gradual reunification.

The formula for reunification is a critical issue since the security and fate of the Korean people and our nation are at stake. Thus, it should rest on public consensus.

There is no clear-cut definition as to whether the South's proposal for "confederation," refers to the Korean National Community Unification Formula set in motion by President Roh Tae-woo or the "Three-stage South-North Federation" announced by President Kim Dae-jung during his days as opposition leader. How the two Korean leaders came to agree on the article is a source of speculation. Some want the declaration to be put before parliament for debate.

However, the reality is that the ruling administration is claiming that the North has inched closer to the South's proposal.

The two main political parties and the government should not attempt to jump-start another round of disputes, but bid for a consensus on the road to reunification.
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