[TODAY]Hwang and North-South-U.S. Diplomacy

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[TODAY]Hwang and North-South-U.S. Diplomacy

In his recent book, "Does America Need a Foreign Policy?" Henry Kissinger complains that domestic politics hampers foreign policy: "For American foreign policy, ever in quest of the magic, all-purpose formula, the need for long-range strategy presents a special and as yet unsolved challenge. Unfortunately, domestic politics is driving American foreign policy in the opposite direction. Congress not only legislates the tactics of foreign policy but also seeks to impose a code of conduct on other nations. Successive administrations have acquiesced, in part as a compromise to gain approval for other programs, in part because domestic politics has become more important to political survival than foreign policy."

The pressure on the South Korean government from conservative Republican members of Congress to allow Hwang Jang-yop to address them is such an instance. If the Bush administration acquiesces to congressional pressure, the issue is likely to inflict a lasting wound on Korean-American relations.

It is not the intention of Jesse Helms, former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Henry Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee and Christopher Cox, chairman of the House Policy Committee, to get new information on the state of affairs in North Korea by bringing Mr. Hwang to the United States. There is probably no new information that they can get from a man who left North Korea four years ago that they don't know now. They have already heard from Mr. Hwang thanks to cooperation by the South Korean government. He has told everything he knows about North Korea in interviews, articles and books. Could he possibly know anything more about the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il than President Kim Dae-jung, South Korean government officials or Madeleine Albright and her subordinates?

The anti-communist trio in the U.S. Congress wants Mr. Hwang to come to the United States for his promotional value. They are trying to drum up anti-North Korea sentiment among Americans by regurgitating the sorry state of affairs inside the Stalinist state through the lips of the "godfather of juche," North Korea's self-reliance ideology.

They are also trying to tie the Bush administration's North Korea policy in hawkish knots and to increase defense spending on such projects as missile defense.

Mr. Hwang's projected testimony before the U.S. Congress, interviews with the press, lectures and a possible fiasco if he decides to seek refuge in the United States will all turn out to be an excellent way of destroying North Korea's reputation. For a while, at least, North Korea will be branded as a rogue state and will not be able to get fuel, rice or fertilizer from the United States. This is contrary to the Perry Report, which outlined an engagement policy toward North Korea through dialogue. If Mr. Hwang is allowed to poison the atmosphere, we cannot expect a serious dialogue between North Korea and the United States.

It is silly of the South Korean government to argue that it cannot send Mr. Hwang to the United States because of security concerns. As Mr. Kissinger said, the executive branch would have no choice but to guarantee security for witnesses under these special circumstances if Congress insists. The South Korean government should have said frankly that, given the rate of progress in North Korean policies of South Korea and the United States, Mr. Hwang's testimony before the U.S. Congress, which is sure to irritate North Korea, is not desirable at this point.

It was in 1997 that Chang Sung-gil, then North Korean ambassador to Egypt, defected to the United States. The U.S. government to this day has refused to allow South Korean officials to meet with Mr. Chang, except for a brief meeting with a low-level officer. Would the U.S. government allow Mr. Chang to visit Seoul if a few members of the National Assembly sought his testimony?

The U.S. lawmakers' threat to seek a House resolution should the South Korean government refuse to send Mr. Hwang to the United States is an arrogant threat to a sovereign state. That is not to say we should not send Mr. Hwang because we don't like their attitude; the future of North-South relations will depend on progress in the next six months, given President Kim Dae-jung's remaining tenure.

Mr. Hwang's rights should be respected, but he is a defector with special status under special custody. He said he came to South Korea to prevent war from breaking out, but now he seems to be trying to "liberate" North Korea. His activities, including testifying before the U.S. Congress, should be restricted.

The South Korean government should admit its fault in having failed to satisfy the self-respect of a senile defector as it pursued an engagement policy toward North Korea. At the same time, it should try to convince the U.S. government and the hardline members of the Congress that it is worth giving up Mr. Hwang's testimony at this critical point in North-South as well as North Korea-U.S. ties.


The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Young-hie

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