[VIEWPOINT]The work ahead for unionOn the fourth anniversary of the June 15 joint declaration, the North and the South are working to prevent accidental military clashes, to halt name-calling on both sides, to ease military tension and to build mutual trust. Although efforts to improve Inter-Korean relations after the joint declaration met crises at times with the tension between the North and international society over its nuclear problem, inter-Korean relations are definitely moving toward a new age. Since the joint declaration, talks between the North and the South have continued. Work on connecting the railroads and highways of the Korean Peninsula is under way and economic transactions are expanding.
Although non-binding, the June 15 joint declaration affirmed the two Koreas’ wish for reconciliation and cooperation, co-existence and co-prosperity.
But there is the so-called “South-South conflict” in South Korean society. South Koreans are divided over how to view the changes in North Korea and the inter-Korean policies of their government. The North-South relations undulated as the North reacted to the changes in international society after the Bush administration stepped in with its hard-line policies and after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. In order to implement the June 15 joint declaration, we need to dismantle the Cold War structure surrounding the Korean Peninsula.
Now there are suspicions about a highly enriched uranium nuclear program in North Korea. As a consequence, North-South relations have concentrated only on implementing former agreements, experiencing difficulties in reaching new goals. We need to solve the issue of weapons of mass destruction, the hostile relations between the North and the United States and the normalization of relations between the North and Japan.
While the North Korean nuclear problem lingers, the North and the South have recently held military and economic talks to examine ways to balance the growth of the two economies and to alleviate military tension. Until now, South Korea, Japan and the United States have been focused on solving the North Korean nuclear problem through a dual policy of talk and pressure. But Seoul cannot wait indefinitely for the nuclear problem to be solved to attend to other standing issues. Our government should combine efforts to interact with the North and alleviate tension on the Korean Peninsula while continuing our cooperation with international society through the six-party framework to solve the nuclear problem. In particular, we must concentrate on easing tension and establishing peace now that 3,600 U.S. troops have been relocated to Iraq and there is talk of 12,500 more U.S. troops pulling out.
The reason for instability in the Korean Peninsula is that hostile relations between the North and the United States have yet to be resolved. Those relations are still based on the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War 50 years ago. The second summit meeting, put off because of the nuclear issue, must take place soon. A summit meeting would be the most efficient way to address the important issues between the North and the South. Kim Jong-il’s visit to Seoul would carry the significance of regularizing North-South summit meetings and it could accelerate the opening of North Korea.
The blueprint for reunification was formed when the two leaders signed the joint declaration. We must now find ways to carry out the tasks that were set in the declaration. Above all, we must throw away our old custom of making promises that won’t be kept and create an atmosphere where promises and agreements are definitely implemented.
* The writer is a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Koh Yu-hwan