[NINTH ASIA-EUROPE PRESS FORUM]... And so is consistent policy

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[NINTH ASIA-EUROPE PRESS FORUM]... And so is consistent policy

Just as the history of the 20th century had its share of ups and downs, the Republic of Korea had to overcome hardships and tragedies and strive toward hope and accomplishment. Looking back, we Koreans had to undertake four very important national tasks: gaining independence from the Japanese colonial regime and founding a nation, eliminating absolute poverty, actualizing democracy, and reunifying the divided nation.
However, Korea’s impressive history is not yet complete. There still is a task unfinished. More than half a century since the division, the Korean Peninsula remains a vestige of the Cold War. I feel the harsh reality of division as I see the dark cloud of North Korea’s nuclear threat looming over this land, and I’m overwhelmed by the sorrow of separation as I watch North Korean refugees stranded in a third country begging to be sent to South Korea.
It’s clearly seen in the cases of other countries that unification cannot be achieved with mere sentiments or ideals. Korea is no exception. Unless we approach this issue in a fastidious manner with our eyes focused on reality, reunification could only bring unfortunate consequences to the Korean people. We should refrain from making hasty political decisions and ostentatious policies, and carefully examine the unique situations of the two Koreas and the surrounding environment before taking action.
The course of Seoul’s North Korean policies should be guided by the uniqueness of inter-Korean relations. North Korea is a dual entity ― a threat to South Korea’s security, but also a partner in reunification and prosperity. Therefore, our North Korea policy has no other alternative than to simultaneously embrace both orientations ― the “security orientation” that tries to maintain peace through military deterrence and the “reunification orientation” that seeks change through exchanges and cooperation.
The “security-oriented policies” aim to maintain peace and contain the antagonistic state of division, while adhering to stern principles of consistency. On the other hand, the objectives of the “unification-oriented policies” are free democratic reunification, while prompting the state of division to change and overseeing that process of change, and upholding the principle of flexibility. The “security-oriented policies” can be implemented through a strong U.S.-Korea alliance and military might. The policies also depend on whether disputes have been deterred.
Meanwhile, the “unification-oriented policies” may be achieved through inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation, and the degree of change occurring in North Korea determines the success of those policies. Because of the conflicting natures of the inter-Korean ties, the aforementioned orientations should be complementary, but it’s the sad truth that they sometimes clash with each other.
When the two clash, reality dictates that more weight should be placed on the “security-oriented policies.” There cannot be even a moment of lapse in security. And only when backed by strong security can the unification policy be implemented steadily and desirable results attained.
Recently, however, concerns about Seoul’s North Korea policy have surfaced as the administration oscillated between the security-oriented and unification-oriented policies.
The importance of the security-oriented policies is being downplayed as more importance is placed on the unification-oriented policies, which only ended up rocking the alliance between Korea and the U.S. and emboldened the move to abolish the National Security Act.
Exchanges and cooperation are important, but our way of life and peace should never be threatened.
Balance and harmony are called for in our North Korean policy, which should convince North Korea to open up and reform, but at the same time motivate us to sustain an airtight security stance.
Reunification is Korea’s ultimate mission, but also important is what type of reunification is achieved and how Korea is reunified. If simple reunification were the goal, then the South and the North can be reunified overnight. All we need to do is let North Korea have its way. But since the reunification process is more important than the end result, the North Korean policy should be guided by a few principles.
First, the course and purpose of reunification should be set clearly. Reunification should raise the quality of life for all of the Korean people and fully embody individual freedom, human right, and human dignity. As long as the course and purpose of reunification are clearly decided, I do not think the final form of reunification needs to be predefined.
Second, the most urgent and vital task in the present phase toward reunification is establishing a solid framework for peace on the Korean Peninsula. In order to bid farewell to the precarious peace of the last half century and build a sturdy system of peace, it is imperative to set up a foundation for economic and social stability in North Korea and for joint growth.
To that end, inter-Korean exchanges of both goods and services should be further encouraged with a particular focus on strengthening economic cooperation.
Next, cooperation from the international community for North Korea must be obtained in order to establish an order of peace. Backed by a steadfast Korea-U.S. alliance, South Korea should spare no assistance in bringing North Korea into the fold of the global community as a responsible member.
South Korea’s diplomatic capabilities should be fully mobilized so that Pyeongyang could form normal ties with the United States and Japan. The establishment of genuine peace is possible only when North Korea works earnestly to join the international community and build trust between the two Koreas.
Lastly, the North Korean nuclear issue must be resolved thoroughly in order to achieve genuine peace on the Korean Peninsula.
The fourth six-party nuclear talks slated for late September is at the risk of being postponed or completely cancelled, which by all means undermines the attempt to bring peace to North Korea, as well as the Korean Peninsula and the entire Northeast Asian region.
The Korean government should strengthen its coalition with the parties involved with the nuclear talks to convince the North Korean leadership that the only way for it to survive in today’s world is to give up its nuclear ambition.

* Park Geun-hye, chairwoman of the opposition Grand National Party, delivered this address, which is published in an abridged form, at the Asia-Europe Press Forum 2004 in Seoul on Tuesday.


by Park Geun-hye
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