[VIEWPOINT]Sunshine policy after the summit

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[VIEWPOINT]Sunshine policy after the summit

At the recent Korea-U.S. summit meeting, President Bush again raised the issue of the war against terrorism. He also called for reductions in both weapons of mass destruction and conventional arms for the military security of the Korean Peninsula. The U.S. leader also repeatedly emphasized the importance of freedom and human rights for those suffering under what he had called the "evil" regime of North Korea. Mr. Bush expressed firm support for South Korea's sunshine policy, but showed dissatisfaction with the results that the policy has yielded in the last four years and pressed for Pyeongyang to loosen its Stalinist grip on its people.

If the summit had indeed narrowed the differences between Washington and Seoul - as our government claims - then it is time for South Korea to review its North Korea policy from a new perspective.

The Kim Dae-jung administration has so far pursued its "sunshine" policies in various fields, such as economic cooperation, social and cultural exchanges, the Mount Geumgang tours and the reunion of separated families. These policies, however, have remained focused on the North Korean government and, in particular, its leader. The administration seems to see the historic North-South summit in Pyeongyang and the possible visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to Seoul as the only factors shaping the North-South relationship. The one-man dictatorship system of North Korea partially explains the logic behind the administration's policy goals and its approach; however, its North Korea policies have gone astray because the means have become the ends and because of its obsession with achieving these goals. Thus, the North-South relationship has not significantly improved.

The success of our North Korea policies depends on North Korea and how it will change. Ultimately, only a changed North Korea can give its people a higher quality of life, freedom and respect for human rights. North Korean society cannot change before its government adopts substantial reforms. We must not make the mistake of confusing superficial changes in North Korean society with permanent changes in its government. If our sunshine policy had contributed in any way to legitimizing a stubbornly unchanging government in North Korea, we must unhesitatingly revise it. Moreover, President Kim must not wait to revise the sunshine policy that has caused a schism in society over unification versus anti-unification, progressive versus conservative and nationalism versus toadyism.

At the news conference after the summit President Kim urged the North to implement the accords of the fifth ministerial talks. Before North Korea is armed with a new strategy, it seems highly unlikely that the Stalinist state will agree to the wishes of our government to re-engage in cooperative actions such as holding high level talks with South Korea. North Korea must have its own analysis and evaluation of the South Korea-U.S. summit. It must be struggling to prepare a response to U.S. demands. However, North Korea has its own reasons not to agree readily to talks and fundamental changes in its political system. In fact, the possibility of the North-South relationship taking a turn for the worse amid exacerbating tensions on the Korean Peninsula should not be ruled out. That is why the formerly "carrots-only" policy should be replaced with a more flexible "carrot-and-stick" policy that could better accommodate souring ties.

For changes to occur in North Korea there should be a more active support program for the peoples of North Korea as well as continued North-South economic cooperation and economic support from the international society. A framework of cooperation should be established with the United States, Japan and other countries. This would help the South Korean effort to aid the North. At the same time, pressure on North Korea to change its ways should be applied gradually. The summit in Seoul has proved that South Korea already has a firm foundation for cooperation with the United States, an ally in guaranteeing peace on the Korean Peninsula. But for North Korea to change, Pyeongyang must acknowledge reality. That is why our National Security Council in shaping North Korea policies should go through a major structural and personnel makeover and become more active.

The sunshine policy reflects the philosophy and vision of President Kim, who fought for democracy and extending freedom and human rights in South Korea. President Kim was awarded the Nobel Peace Price for these efforts. It would be unfortunate if his sunshine policy ended with his term; it should be appropriately revised and continued for further success.


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The writer is a professor of North Korean studies at Korea University.

by Yoo Ho-yeul

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