[OUTLOOK]Bringing sunlight to the NorthIn a recent interview with a new Internet newspaper, UpKorea, Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan said that despite the South’s sunshine policy, Pyeongyang’s attitude and system remain unchanged, and their claims on inter-Korean cooperation have ignited friction within the South. Isn’t he right!
Since the Kim Dae-jung administration, the South Korean government has considered helping the North as one of the important duties of the republic. The South has been spreading all kinds of “sunshine,” from fertilizer to cash. Seoul was naive to believe in the Aesop’s fable of thinking that warm sunshine can make the North Koreans take off their heavy coats of seclusion.
That did not happen.
In recent years, an increasing number of people have been allowed to visit the other side of the border. Surely, there are many more inter-Korean contacts and reactions in various forms. Yet that does not mean Pyeongyang is changing. We can only say North Korea is indeed transforming when its system, ideology or policy show some signs of change.
Pyeongyang only allows the exchanges and contacts necessary to maintain its system, strictly blocking the free travel, contacts or communications of civilians. The reunion of separated families is only possible under thoroughly controlled conditions, and even so-called tourism prohibits free traffic or communication.
Pyeongyang’s every move is calculated with totalitarian planning. Nothing is spontaneous or natural. We have seen the perfectly trained cheerleading machine at sports events. The cheerleaders move only as choreographed and sing only for the North’s political purposes.
There are two schemes to induce Pyeongyang’s transformation through the sunshine policy.
One way is to link the policy to Pyeongyang’s change. Make a conditional deal with the North by offering a certain level of sunshine only when Pyeongyang agrees to make changes.
The other strategy is to provide sunshine unconditionally and wait for Pyeongyang to voluntarily change. This has been Seoul’s chosen tactic so far.
The first strategy offers Pyeongyang certain incentives in return for good behavior based on the assumption that humans are by nature selfish and calculating. The second scheme, unlike the first, starts with the belief that humans are basically good and that discord will disappear if we are good to each other.
The problem with the unconditional sunshine policy is in deciding what to do when there is no hint of change in the other side’s policy or attitude in response to the continued efforts by the South. If Seoul stops providing sunshine now, it will virtually admit the failure of the unconditional sunshine policy. On the contrary, continued sunshine without any change by the North in return will virtually bar Pyeongyang from the possible transformation that would have come naturally. Then the sunshine policy in effect acts as a life support for Pyeongyang, helping it maintain its current system, and it is possible that Pyeongyang might have had more opportunity for change without the sunshine policy.
If Seoul wants to induce change from Pyeongyang, our priority should be sending sunlight instead of sunshine. Sunlight will brighten the hermit kingdom while sunshine will merely deliver warmth.
The leaders of North Korea keep its people in the dark in order to maintain its system. They will surely try to block any sunlight from reaching society in the shadows. At this moment, North Korea cannot even maintain the status quo without the help of sunshine. Fortunately, sunlight comes from the sun, as does sunshine. From now on, we need to remember that sunshine is the means to send sunlight to Pyeongyang.
North Korea is a strictly controlled society, but even the most secluded country will not be able to stay in the dark much longer when sunlight is pouring down. This is why we need to send sunlight to North Korea.
* The writer, a former ambassador to the United States, is president of the Institute of Social Science. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kim Kyung-won