[INSIGHT]Contradictions in North-South Relations

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[INSIGHT]Contradictions in North-South Relations

Our North Korea policy contains duplicities that contradict each other. One of the contradictions is the collision between nation and state. The definition of nation is a way of approaching North Korea as a brethren and a family. The definition of state is a way of approaching North Korea as an enemy state confronting South Korea militarily.

The "Sunshine Policy" of the current administration also bears a representative dualism. The policy consists of two entirely different pillars, called security and reconciliation. The policy aims at carrying out the cooperation and exchange of material and human resources, while beefing up national defense at the same time.

Unification and peace cause another duplicity. Apparently they seem to go hand in hand, but they collide with each other like water and oil in relations between North and South Korea. Advocates of unification want to pull down barriers between the North and the South. Most pacifists assert that we should maintain the status quo peacefully by easing military tensions between the two Koreas. If you aren't listening closely, the two assertions seem to be the same. But the former aims at abolishing the status quo, while the latter advocates retaining it.

Roughly dividing these three duplicities into two sides, a line of nation-reconciliation-advocates for unification exists on one side. On the opposite side is a line of state-security-advocates for peace. But this black and white lineup is a wrong conception of reality on the Korean Peninsula. We should accept relations between the North and the South as an entity holding fatalistic duplicities in it. Because we look at only one side, we fall into great confusion and ruptures among groups break out.

North and South Koreans are brethren and at the same time we share a hostile relationship after attempting to kill each other during the Korea War. But we cannot share in a hostile relationship forever. We should secure national security and mitigate antagonism through reconciliation and cooperation. And then we should reunite in the faraway future while promising peace to each other. This is a model solution. By forgetting this model solution, we wind up blaming and criticizing each other.

The rice aid issue is not that complicated if we follow this model solution. Simply, our northern brethren are starving. We have more than enough rice and have difficulty in dealing with a superabundance of rice in this year's harvest. It is right to send rice to the North, following the line of the nation, reconciliation, cooperation and unification.

Then what happens to the line of state, security and peace? When a similar debate was held just before rice aid to the North in 1996, I alluded to a historical fact of ancient China. In ancient China, Jin had a bad rice harvest. So Jin dispatched an envoy to neighboring Qin to ask for rice aid. The king of Qin convened cabinet members to discuss what to do. The majority of members said that if Qin gave rice aid to Jin once, on a humanitarian basis, Jin would keep asking for aid, and also food aid would benefit the enemy. However, a liegeman called Zisang maintained, "If Qin bestowed a favor on Jin by offering rice, the King of Jin and his people would be deeply moved. If the King of Jin betrayed Qin's favor in the future, his people would hate their king and then naturally would be destroyed. So there are two gains."

There is no need to calculate loss and gain. This year's rice harvest exceeds 5.33 million tons - and the rice inventory by the end of this year is expected to be 1.42 million tons. If the rice harvest is good, then the inventory will reach more than 1.44 million tons. When the government stocks 1.15 million tons in warehouses, 288,000 tons is an excess. It takes 160 billion won ($123 million) to deposit 288,00 tons of rice and later it becomes hard to manage piled-up rice crops because the quality of rice diminishes as it sits in a warehouse.

For all that, if we don't care about our starving Northern brethren and just calculate a profit and loss of 288,000 tons, what can we do for reconciliation and cooperation with North Korea and how can we negotiate with North Korea to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula?

The criticism that the South Korean government has given too much to the North is also unwarranted and emotional finger-counting. While the Kim Young-sam administration gave $260 million in aid during his five-year tenure, the Kim Dae-jung administration gave $117 million by the end of last year.

Fortunately, the main opposition Grand National Party forestalled on rice aid to the North this time. Now that the ruling and opposition parties voiced one opinion after a long time, they can restore public confidence if they get the National Assembly approval on the rice aid to the North and representatives of the ruling and opposition parties visit the North to check the transparency of the distribution process.

Just one administration cannot solve all issues between North and South Korea. In order to secure consistency and build a connection of North Korea policy over the administrations, a political party should acknowledge the duplicities of North Korea policies and should equip with equilibrium between duplicities. If that's done, a party deserves running the administration.


The writer is the editorial page editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kwon Young-bin

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