[OUTLOOK]North must stand firm on pledge

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[OUTLOOK]North must stand firm on pledge

Saturday marked the second anniversary of the summit meeting between President Kim Dae-jung and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il. This meeting was a landmark that left its impression on the modern history of Korea. The significance of this year's anniversary seems to have been overshadowed by the World Cup and Thursday's local elections. I, however, recall the meeting with a revival of the emotions two years ago, for I was there at the site of history, accompanying the president as a special aide.

I especially remember the luncheon that Kim Jong-il held to conclude the summit meeting. The first thing he announced as we sat down at our tables was the fact that he had earlier in the morning decided that he would stop all propaganda announcements that North Korea had been sending across the Demilitarized Zone. After his announcement, we all toasted and held hands while singing "Our Wish is Unification."

Present at the luncheon were central figures in the North Korean military, including Vice Marshal Jo Myung-rok and Generals Hyun Chol-hae and Park Jae-kyong. I remember thinking, "This is a living sign of the tension leaving and the trust building between the two Koreas." I also remember feeling the utmost relief in thinking that we would not have to worry about war anymore.

But what is happening now? The emotions we felt at the summit meeting are nowhere to be seen and inter-Korean relations are showing signs of returning to the past of distrust and antagonism. What is most difficult to understand in all of this is how Kim Jong-il is failing to keep the promises that he himself agreed to and signed.

Currently, we are seeing problems in the implementation of not only the June 15 agreement but also the issues agreed upon in October, 2000, when the heads of the South Korean media visited Pyeongyang, and during the recent visit by Lim Dong-won, President Kim's special envoy, to talk with the North Korean leader.

North Korea's failure to keep its promises is seriously compromising South Korea's policies towards Pyeongyang. It is widely believed that in North Korea, the party, the government, the country and the army all follow and carry out the chairman's decisions.

However, with the kind of troubles we are seeing with the implementation of the agreed agenda in North Korea, there are questions about whether the North Korean government and ruling body are as well-ordered and consistent as they seem.

Of course, the North Korean government, too, has its own problems. Chairman Kim has claimed that the "fluctuations in international society" brought in part by the hard-line policies of the administration of President George W. Bush of the United States may be making it a little hard for North Korea to carry out future-oriented foreign policies.

The United States has yet to organize its policies on North Korea and is delaying a visit by Washington's special envoy, Jack Pritchard, to Pyeongyang. From the North Korean perspective, the conditions for future-oriented policies are not quite ready yet.

However, it is difficult to understand Pyeongyang's taking hostage of its relations with the South, because its relations with the United States are in trouble. In fact, the North would be wise to use its bond with South Korea to help it find an exit out of the current difficulties it faces in maintaining relations with the United States.

Admittedly, the establishment of an economic cooperation body, the visit of North Korean economists to the South and a meeting for the revival of the joint project of Mount Geumgang tours that were promised during Mr. Lim's visit to Pyeongyang are not programs difficult to carry out.

Moreover, with the exception of the building of trust in military affairs, the five major inter-Korean tasks the Kim Dae-jung administration set out to accomplish within its term of office are not difficult to attain: the setting up of an industrial complex in Gaeseung, the re-connection of the Gyeungui railway and highway, the realization of the Mount Geumgang tours by road and the reunion of separated family members.

North Korea cannot afford to go astray again. Pyeongyang should show more sincerity in cooperating on the issues of more social and cultural exchange, the alleviation of tension on the Korean Peninsula and confidence building before the Kim Dae-jung administration leaves office.

That way, the atmosphere of cooperation and reconciliation will continue afterwards regardless of who becomes President Kim Dae-jung's successor. Unwillingness by the North to cooperate would not only bring an end to Seoul's more embracing policies toward North Korea but it would also make the historical significance of the June 15 summit meeting disappear forever.

North Korean leaders should keep this in mind and should pursue a change in attitude in assisting the Kim Dae-jung administration to successfully wrap up its inter-Korean policies.


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The writer is a professor of international relations at Yonsei University.

by Moon Chung-in

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