[EDITORIALS]No more unrequited aidFollowing the shipment of 200,000 tons of fertilizer aid to North Korea in late May, the government decided to provide 400,000 tons of rice to the North. Critics will quickly say the government is trying to appease the North by pouring out aid even as the North escalates the nuclear crisis. To convince the skeptics, the government must explain clearly how its North Korea policy differs from the Kim Dae-jung government’s and put its policy in force. The government should induce North Korea to make substantial changes.
Calling the rice aid a loan, just like the Kim government did, the Roh administration has made a drastic change in its policy, labeling the loan to be “humanitarian,” instead of “inter-Korea economic cooperation.” That appeared to be an approach to get around Mr. Roh’s statement at the Roh-Bush meeting that inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation will be linked to the development of the North Korean nuclear issue. The government found a way to resolve the North Korean food crisis from a humanitarian perspective, regardless of the nuclear situation.
In the long term, the South’s food assistance to the North is unavoidable. Taking into account the social welfare burden after unification to support people disabled by the famine is the convincing reason. That is probably why the government made such a decision. But how will the government deal with the North to make it work in our favor?
The government must have a principle of giving what it should give and demanding what it should receive. First, the government should urge the North to resolve the nuclear situation as soon as possible. Seoul should urge the North to apply the humanitarian spirit to the issue of South Korean war prisoners, abductees and separated families in return for the rice aid. Seoul should also seek assurances that the food gets to those in need.
By raising such demands and having them met, the Roh government will be saved from the criticism of indulging the North, which hit the last administration. Obtaining National Assembly approval can unify opinions. By doing so, the North might at least try to live up to the new inter-Korean relations.