[VIEWPOINT]The sun shines stubbornly here

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[VIEWPOINT]The sun shines stubbornly here

The big dreams of President Kim Dae-jung might be just that: dreams not destined to become reality. Mr. Kim wanted to follow in the footsteps of former Genman Chancellor Helmut Kohl, but without absorbing North Korea as West Germany absorbed the East. An even more dramatic unification was on his mind, a feat he envisioned as his final masterpiece. Mr. Kim tried to imitate the German model of unification through cooperation with and persuasion of nearby countries; he tried to recruit four powerful nations ?America, Japan, Russia and China ?as members of his sunshine policy club. Until the time he got his Nobel Peace Prize, everything seemed to go according to plan.

But now, the once staunch allies of the sunshine policy have changed their positions and they are not polite enough to hide their disapproval. Naming North Korea as a member of an "axis of evil," President Bush did not seem to consider for even one moment President Kim's position. I guess the discomfort of the Korean president after that gesture was reflected in the dismissal of Han Seung-soo, the minister of foreign affairs and trade.

The current situation is similar to that near the end of former President Kim Young-sam's term. After the infiltration of a North Korean submarine into the South, Mr. Kim said that there would be no resumption of talks unless Pyeongyang issued a formal apology. Kim Young-sam showed an irritated Bill Clinton, then the U.S. president, just how stubborn he could be, and Kim Dae-jung's constant soft stance on North Korea is probably getting on Mr. Bush's nerves in the same way. I think we should not forget how Korea had to weather its economic crisis without the help of the United States; that was the price of Korea's foreign policy under Kim Young-sam.

Relations between Korea and America have gone from hot to chilly. Kim Dae-jung was a Cinderella when he came to power. His odyssey-like political life and his vision for a balanced, democratic and economically strong country were reason enough to embrace him with open arms. The United States could use Korea as a good example to contrast with Malaysia, which tried to make a recovery without the help of the IMF. Furthermore, Mr. Kim's firm stance on human rights served as worthy example for the Chinese.

But the U.S. honeymoon with Kim Dae-jung is over. His independent policy is seen as contrary to the American worldview after Sept. 11. The United States doubts that Mr. Kim will keep his promise of mutual cooperation in critical moments. In a word, trust at the personal level has broken down. There is also a belief in Washington that, although the Korean government publicly stresses the importance of American forces on the Korean Peninsula, it has purposely ignored the anti-American feeling welling up here.

Even Japan is complaining that the sunshine policy puts too much emphasis on China. While Japan is feeling neglected in so-called "cooperative efforts" to bring the North into the real world, the perceived focus of the sunshine policy, China, seems not to be succumbing to our courtship. As an example, look at how China deals with refugees from North Korea. Last year, despite warnings from the United States, we showed our support to Russia on the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Nevertheless, Russia changed its stance at the end of last year, giving tacit approval to the United States' withdrawal from the treaty, leaving us dangling in the wind. As it turns out, we were used as a pawn in Russia's foreign policy and we succeeded only in putting a dent in our relationship with America.

We have reached the limits of our sunshine policy, and the rules of international politics have been rewritten after the Sept. 11 attacks. But we are still hanging on to the policy, arguing that the tough stance of the United States only increases tension. Stubbornly, we say that in the end, the sunshine policy will fit better into the anti-terror strategy of America than bellicosity.

Tensions between the United States and Korea have reached new heights. Beneath the rising discontent voiced about "Bush's arrogance" lies Korean hurt pride; we seem to be left out and totally ignored by the U.S. foreign policy on North Korea.

In the days when Mr. Kohl was polishing his "Ostpolitik," there was great attention paid to fine-tuning and determining strategic priorities. Principles and interests that were wholly German were suppressed when that seemed sensible. The Kim administration needs to adopt a similar strategy. The fundamentals for a successful sunshine policy include sound mutual cooperation with the United States.

Right now, our most important task is to restore that cooperation.


The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Park Bo-gyoon

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