[GLOBAL EYE]Post-election policies set courseNow that the National Assembly elections are over, Blue House staff members are occupied with pending issues as they wait for the president’s return, especially the members of the security team. The team is dealing with the most formidable tasks, such as sending troops to Iraq, North Korea’s nuclear project, the six-nation talks and the Korea-U.S. alliance.
As Seoul watched the recent Beijing summit between the heads of North Korea and China, China became an awkward partner. Dealing with China is no small matter in Korea’s diplomatic front.
The day draws near when troops will be dispatched to Iraq, but the Blue House has yet to make up its mind on how to tackle the issue or whether to change its plans. The reason behind the reluctance is the changed political climate and public opinion after the legislative elections.
The Democratic Labor Party has already declared that it will propose a resolution opposing the troop dispatch at the 17th National Assembly session. Our Open Party, the de-facto ruling party, is showing signs that internally its opinion is divided.
As for the Grand National Party, there is no guarantee that its new faces will blindly follow the party’s past decisions.
As the situation in Iraq is only getting more complicated, unsettled public opinion is only another burden for the Blue House aides. At this moment, there are two things the Blue House security team needs to consider.
First, what did the members weigh the most when the troop dispatch first became an issue in September 2003? They considered the potential negative effects the dispatch would have on the National Assembly election.
That concern is no longer an issue now. Instead, they should keep in mind that there’s already a political structure that can give power and responsibility to the president’s decision.
Second, the government’s reluctant attitude in handling the issue and the selection of the location where troops will be stationed have already cost it much of the trust of its ally, the United States. But if Korea were to withdraw the dispatch plan itself, the price it would have to pay would be wide ranging. Instead of aiming for a new target, trying to minimize losses from current policy is also considered a plus.
When the president returns, the security team should make a suggestion. Now that the National Assembly elections are over, it is time for the president to display political competency by personally persuading the ruling party and the citizens. It is the only way to regain the trust of allies and maintain the president’s authority for what’s left of his term.
If he successfully persuades the party and the citizens, he would not only show off his status as a true leader of the ruling party but also benefit by preventing the opposition parties’ attempt to attack the president.
As the new Assembly is likely to favor a more friendly relationship with the North, the Blue House staff needs to scrutinize a few things.
There was a talk of holding an inter-parliamentary meeting with the North even before the National Assembly elections. The meeting shouldn’t be discouraged, but much preparation is needed to ensure that the meeting achieves the expected goals.
But the Assembly alone cannot make the meeting a success. The government must help and intervene. There is no need for the president and the government to follow a plan unconditionally just because the ruling party initiates and promotes the meeting. The government has a duty to draw bipartisan support and lead the National Assembly toward a direction that is helpful to overall inter-Korean relations.
Several political figures are said to be in the running for the minister of unification position. The new minister, whoever it is, should be someone who is a conservative by constitution yet has an ability to pursue policies solely based on reality, not ideology. If someone who does not remember the history between the two Koreas is swayed by political rhetoric, the inter-Korean projects created by the new National Assembly could be in vain.
Korea is at a crucial point in its relationship with the North. Even the North Korean authorities said they would closely monitor the post-election changes of South Korean society.
This means we must be all the more cautious in our approach. When we are not certain of the direction our society is taking after the National Assembly elections, it is not wise to replace the minister who is in charge of the relationship with the North.
* The writer is an editorial writer and director of the JoongAng Ilbo Unification Research Institute.
by Kil Jeong-woo