[OUTLOOK]What’s the plan, Mr. Chung?Since Chung Dong-young, unification minister and presidential special envoy to Pyongyang, said that he delivered an important proposal to Kim Jong-il, there have been signs of change in inter-Korean relations.
The inter-Korean ministerial talks progressed swiftly in an amicable atmosphere. Encouraged by the result of the talks, Minister Chung himself went straight to the United States. Things are hectic as if the North Korean nuclear issue has reached a turning point.
The media outlets carried their own speculative reports on the contents of Mr. Chung’s “important proposal.” But they just call the proposal the “Marshall Plan for North Korea,” after the present administration called it that a few times.
The government officials just hinted at the basic outline: “It is a large-scale economic assistance over a period of over 20 years,” they said, but they did not disclose specific details.
The problem is that its contents are kept secret only from the public. The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, who talked with Mr. Chung for four hours and 50 minutes, may know what the plan is about. And because Mr. Chung has gone to the United States to seek its cooperation, now the U.S. government may know what it’s about as well.
In other words, the government won’t inform its own citizens, ignoring the people’s right to know.
Why has Mr. Chung remained silent about the substance of the proposal, while making its outline public, saying, “I made an important proposal”?
The reason, it seems, is that he wanted to avoid subsequent criticism that there was a secret deal with the North that was created behind closed doors. In the past, the achievements of inter-Korean talks that were pursued in secret during the Kim Dae-jung administration were tarnished after the money-for-summit scandal broke out.
The present administration does not seem confident enough to disclose the contents as they are. Perhaps it is because it has promised to provide extensive assistance to the North without getting the consent from the South Korean people.
I point out that the basic outline of the important proposal itself shows that the “Marshall Plan for North Korea” is based on a wrong idea. The ultimate goal that the United States pursued through the Marshall Plan immediately after World War II was to remove the soil where totalitarianism might take root again in Europe by restoring the defeated countries’ economies. All the beneficiaries of the Marshall Plan ended up becoming democratic governments.
In the defeated nations, including Germany and Italy, the Marshall Plan was implemented after totalitarian governments were completely removed. Therefore, the transparency of the regime was first achieved so that the astronomical amounts of economic support could be entirely invested in economic development.
But North Korea today represents totalitarianism itself. It is extremely unclear how much the large-scale economic support will be invested in civic and economic development. Supporters of the “sunshine policy” contend that to reduce post-unification costs, it is effective to boost the North Korean economy now.
But there is a big difference in significance and effectiveness between the investment in backward North Korea after unification and the investment in North Korea in the present situation.
I would also like to point out that there has been no precedent in history in which a totalitarian country reformed itself with outside help to switch to a democracy.
We also cannot understand the way our government presented the proposal to North Korea. Promising and implementing a “20-year economic development plan for North Korea” differs in nature from sending fertilizer or fuel aid.
The South Korean public should be convinced of the usefulness and need for this large-scale assistance, especially with economic problems at home.
A month has not passed since the government repealed an immature policy designed to keep people from opening up small businesses. The government had said the policy was necessary because most self-employed people cannot earn the minimum income for a sustainable livelihood. Would those who run small businesses understand why the government does not make them a priority if it has the vast resources to carry out the “Marshall Plan for North Korea”?
Let’s suppose the grand plan has obtained approval from the National Assembly through a great compromise between parties, even before holding a national referendum. Even if it is approved, would it be possible for the plan to be carried out for 20 years without changes? It would be possible to propose a 20-year aid plan only under a political system in which an administration never changes and has no checks on its power.
The government should also take into account that if it fails to honor its own words after making a promise that was impossible to keep, it will not be able to blame the North if Pyongyang breaks its promises.
* The writer is a professor of political science at Pusan National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Chun Hong-chan