[EDITORIALS]North-South dialogue urgentIt is almost four months since official inter-Korean dialogue broke down. Since the North boycotted ministerial talks scheduled for August in Seoul, it has kept its doors closed.
This isolation shouldn’t persist. In view of timing, it is necessary for both Koreas to restore relations before the new foreign and security affairs team of the United States consolidates a hardline policy on the North Korean nuclear issue.
First of all, North Korea should change its attitude. Bolting doors leading to the world will not guarantee the security of its system. As the North has imposed isolation on itself, a range of speculation about the regime is rampant internationally. Theories ranging from the downfall of the regime to Kim Jong-il’s death have circulated wildly and it has been left to Beijing to deny the rumors.
This is not normal, and does the North no good. Pyeongyang may have realized that it can only rely on the South for practical help, but if there is no progress in North-South relations, Seoul’s ability to persuade Washington and Tokyo will weaken and a worse crisis could be created on the peninsula.
Seoul has to exert multi-dimensional efforts to make a breakthrough. As to restoring the dialogue channel, it is advisable for the government to send an envoy North. Since the North-South Summit on June 15, 2000, the government has flattered the North and provided economic aid when inter-Korean relations confronted difficulties. These are negative precedents. The North now believes, mistakenly, that it can still get a great deal from the South, even if dialogue is interrupted. At this very moment, the reality is that some 400,00 tons of rice, 100,000 tons of fertilizer and many South Korean tourists to Mount Geumgang ― and their attendant won ―are flowing Northward.
We can’t leave things as they are.
An envoy to the North should be sent openly and transparently, otherwise it will create misunderstandings. The government shouldn’t pay excessive rewards in exchange for dialogue. It must not grasp at a second inter-Korean summit to break an impasse in domestic politics, nor should it promote it hurriedly. An inter-Korean summit should come as a natural result of progress on the North Korean nuclear issue and inter-Korean relations.
When a special envoy is sent, persuading the North to solve the nuclear problem should be the key agenda.