[TODAY]Too Much Wooing Is Counterproductive

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[TODAY]Too Much Wooing Is Counterproductive

The June 15 Joint Declaration, which resulted in a Nobel peace prize for President Kim Dae-jung, is blamed as the cause of internal conflicts in the South just after a year it was issued. That reminds me of a saying that yesterday's success does not guarantee tomorrow's. The incident that occurred in the recent reunification festival in Pyongyang is just a part of a larger picture; the crux of the problem is that the South Korean mood is worsening at the expected results of the joint declaration slip away. Even persons who support the sunshine policy are less and less enthusiastic about it.

The reason why North-South relations have come to a standstill is because Kim Jong-il is boycotting the inter-Korean dialogue promised in the joint declaration. He is avoiding talks with the South after miscalculating that the action would put pressure on the Bush administration to modify its hard-line policy.

According to a high-ranking government official, the North will likely decide on its policy toward the South after seeing the results of Chinese President Jiang Zemin's visit to Pyongyang in September and the U.S. president's South Korea, Japan and China visits in October. We cannot, therefore, expect any changes in North-South relations until November or December.

Dispatching Jo Myong-rok, a North Korean vice marshal, to the United States and inviting Madeleine Albright, then the U.S. secretary of state, to Pyongyang just before the U.S. presidential election last year, Kim Jong-il hinted that he was willing to make a major concession to the United States to resolve the missile problem. But when George W. Bush was elected president, Mr. Kim's dreams of improving relations with the United States burst like a bubble. If he learned any lesson last year about lame duck presidents, I doubt that he will reopen a dialogue with President Kim's administration, which is now being "ostracized" by the public.

The sunshine policy that was expected to establish peace between the North and the South has turned into chaos, tearing Korean society apart. But we should look ahead, not back. North Korea is now strengthening its cooperative relations with China and Russia and it varies its tactics towards the United States, sometimes attacking it but at the same time seeking to resume talks with Washington secretly while ignoring the South. Amid such maneuvering, it is not surprising that North-South relations are stalled.

Seoul expected the Chinese and Russian leaders to encourage Mr. Kim to reopen talks with the South and visit here, but those expectations went up in smoke when the U.S. military withdrawal issue got into the joint declaration between the North and Russia. South Koreans currently have big expectations about Jiang Zemin's Pyongyang visit, but they should not get too excited too soon.

On the other hand, it is too early to conclude that the sunshine policy has failed. The policy has many good points worth rescuing, and there is no obvious alternative policy. The problem is how we implement it. Many people have already suggested what President Kim should do from now on.

The first thing he should do is to stop his pitiful efforts to induce Kim Jong-il to visit the South. If he wishes to come, let him come; if he doesn't, just leave him alone. President Kim urged Chairman Kim no fewer than eight times in May and June to visit the South. In such a situation, it is not surprising that the North's leader is staying aloof and stepping up his demands.

One of the main reasons why Chairman Kim is reluctant to come to the South is because he does not think that he would receive as tumultuous a welcome from South Koreans as President Kim did in Pyongyang last year. He also knows that there are many people who are actively opposed to his visit to Seoul.

The South Korean government should make its position clear: It has no intention of implementing the joint declaration unilaterally. It is the North that loses more from the stalled talks. Even leaving aside the peace treaty, to which President Kim shows a deep attachment, the Bush administration would not welcome a peace declaration that would entangle the U.S. military in the South in new issues. All the conflicts going on among South Koreans and between Korea and the United States result from a belief that historic agreements with the North can be made without public consensus and full discussions with the United States.

The unique dialectic of inter-Korean relations is that Seoul should give up something in order to gain something else. The fundamental sources of the internal conflicts will be removed and the sunshine policy will truly "shine" only when President Kim gives up his ambition to complete all the items on his agenda with the North during his term of office and passes some of them to the next president.


The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Young-hie

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