[OUTLOOK]Politicians need to get serious

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[OUTLOOK]Politicians need to get serious

The inter-Korean deputy minister-level talks that ended on May 19 achieved agreements on dispatching a South Korean minister-level delegation to a “grand festival for national reunification” in Pyongyang on June 15 and holding inter-Korean ministerial talks on June 21 in return for fertilizer aid to the North.
Since then, the June 15 inter-Korean events have become one of the most urgent concerns for politicians. It is said Unification Minister Chung Dong-young, the Uri Party chairman and other famous politicians are fiercely competing to get tickets to these events.
Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate select committee on intelligence, said on May 8 that North Korea appears to be preparing for a nuclear test and that Kim Jong-il sees the development of nuclear weapons as the only way to ensure the North’s place on the international stage and to get what it wants.
Also, John E. McLaughlin, former acting CIA director, said that it is no surprise if North Korea conducts a nuclear test, and more surprises may be in store if the country tests long-distance missiles for the next phase.
Regarding the missile the North launched over the East Sea on May 1, Richard Lawless, deputy U.S. undersecretary of defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs, said the test could be part of a development of a third type missile, not a ballistic missile.
According to a highly placed source with knowledge of North Korea, this missile test was an experiment to launch missiles loaded with a small nuclear warhead, targeting the U.S. Army base in Pyeongtaek in retaliation for the United States’ bombing of the North.
In a situation where the conflict between North Korea and the United States over the nuclear problem becomes fiercer by the day, I wonder how our policymakers are coping with the situation.
Some people recently contended that Chung Dong-young and Im Dong-wook, deputy minister of the North Korean Labor Party’s Unification Department, have emerged as the key channels for inter-Korean negotiations.
Many influential North Korean sources say that Deputy Minister Im is an old man, 75 years old, and currently undergoing treatment for lung cancer. If the analysis of these sources is correct, a solid and sustainable channel for inter-Korean negotiations doesn’t exist yet.
It can also be judged that in the inter-Korean negotiations, the North is operating a working-level channel only to obtain fertilizer and food aid, but some South Korean politicians are elaborating on “negotiations” to produce a rosy picture of their own. Under these circumstances, the prospects for inter-Korean minister-level talks in June may not be bright.
During the Joseon Dynasty, the court spent endless days and nights in political strife and intrigue before the outbreak of the Imjin War during the late 16th century. The court faced a war without preparing for Japan’s invasion and suffered miserable defeats repeatedly. Only Admiral Yi Sun-shin was thoroughly prepared, collecting information and developing precise strategies and tactics so that he could lead the Korean Navy in repelling the Japanese invasion.
Today, the situation in Northeast Asia and Korea is no less turbulent and critical than that before the outbreak of the Imjin War. But politicians are only engaged in an exchange of disturbing words, such as “self-reliant national defense,” or “pro-alliance,” or “a balancing role,” without two important things: close cooperation between South Korea and the United States and responsible inter-Korean negotiations. These are needed for the resolution of the most crucial issue, the North Korean nuclear problem.
In June, there will be a series of important negotiations related to the fate of the Korean Peninsula, including the South Korea-United States summit talks, the South Korea-Japan summit talks and the inter-Korean minister-level talks. We don’t have the leisure to throw a party, the “grand festival for national reunification.” to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the June 15 inter-Korean Joint Declaration.
Furthermore, politicians should reflect on themselves whether they are trying to have a few pictures taken to promote their political success while ignoring the security of the country and the people. If they have so much time, I hope they will more seriously mull over solutions to the North Korean nuclear problem to produce good ideas, even just one.
What would Admiral Yi have done in today’s grim and complicated situation on the Korean Peninsula? I miss the great figure who developed strategies and tactics, based on complete preparation, that could overcome any circumstances. His attitude was that “if you are prepared to die, you will live” and “prevention is better than the cure.”

* The writer is a standing director of Future Foundation. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.


by Koo Hae-woo
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