[INSIGHT]Let's Use Our Heads, Not Our Hearts

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[INSIGHT]Let's Use Our Heads, Not Our Hearts

At the center of the current political uproar is Unification Minister Lim Dong-won. The political turmoil looks like ordinary inter-party squabbling, but In this case, the political rhetoric reflects a larger "South-South" conflict over North Korea policies.

Most people look at the issue in black and white terms. They think that if Mr. Lim retains his post the opposition party loses; if Mr. Lim goes, the ruling camp is the loser. A new minister means a victory for conservatives; otherwise, progressives are the winners.

Something is wrong here. Can Mr. Lim's replacement actually be a great turning point, after which the basic framework of North Korea policy will change? Whether President Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-pil of the United Liberal Democrats continue their coalition or not, and whether the ruling or the oppostion wins the no-confidence vote on Mr. Lim, politicians are still responsible for political management. Why do they mingle the "sunshine policy" with a political free-for-all? It is wrong to connect Mr. Lim's replacement with the abandonment of the sunshine policy.

Should a years-long North Korea policy, on which our nation's future depends, be scrapped because a minister is replaced? The ruling party itself confused us with its rhetoric linking Mr. Lim's tenure to the continuation of that policy.

There is no choice, I think, but to continue the sunshine no matter who is in office. A national consensus that North-South relations should make progress through dialogue and negotiations was formed as a basic principle despite lingering confusion over North Korea policies. Although there is difference in views on speed and tactics, there is no alternative to the main thrust of the policy. And this consensus will disappear in a day because there is no man other than Mr. Lim to keep the policy alive in this administration?

Of course Mr. Lim has been the architect of the policy over the last three years, and dedicated himself to making the North-South summit succeed. When I met Mr. Lim, I asked him, "Why do you cling to the reciprocal visit of Kim Jong-il?" He answered, "Because to persuade him, more than any other North Korean, to our side is the most effective way." We cannot measure the results of such persuasion. But we can say that Mr. Lim has managed North Korea policy with conviction and a strong will. Sometimes he was misunderstood and criticized as a pro-North Korea figure.

But his role is ended, even though he deserves great credit for his achievements. He should have stepped down before the first anniversary of the June 15 joint communique. North-South relations should be handled with a "warm heart and cool head." President Kim used those wise words just before he left for Pyongyang last year. The North-South summit began with a "warm heart." Two emotional separated family reunions, the performance of a Pyongyang circus troupe here, a round-table discussion held in Mount Kumgang - many inter-Korean events have infected South Koreans with reunification fever.

I have noted several times that things were moving too fast, and it was now time for a "cool head" in order to institutionalize the policies. But the policy mainstream is still warm-hearted and little more.

The recent problems in Pyongyang resulted from a failure to think coldly about the issues. The South's delegation was a group of people with "warm hearts"; it put nationalistic passion ahead of state strategy. That led to a clash with those skeptical of their belief that North-South problems could be solved if the two sides hug each other and sing the "Unification Song" together. The festival should be a good lesson to all of us.

At first we approached the North with nationalistic passion, and now it is time to approach with a calm strategy. While closed-door negotiations and unilateral giving represent the first stage of North-South reconciliation, in the second stage the government should establish a national consensus on our strategy and adopt a policy of well-calculated giving. The policy should be transformed and institutionalized, and should not depend on passions and festivals.

It is time to reflect on what was left behind when the fever passed by. Confirmation of the whereabouts of separated families, the establishment of a permanent meeting place, the development of industrial complexes in Kaesong, the relinking of the Seoul-Shinuiju railway: All those promises turned out to be a feast of words. We should not sacrifice the sunshine policy itself just because it is time for Mr. Lim to move on. The Blue House should replace him in order to proceed with the second phase of the sunshine policy.

This is the "middle-of-the-road" that the ULD leader Kim Jong-pil recommends and which will ultimately save the sunshine policy and the Kim administration.


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

by Kwon Young-bin

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