[OUTLOOK]A crucial juncture for Korea

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[OUTLOOK]A crucial juncture for Korea

The North Korean Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-il’s remark during his meeting with Chung Dong-young, unification minister, that the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was the last will of late North Korean President Kim Il Sung, was the most noteworthy part of the recent Pyongyang meeting. The remark reconfirmed the fact that a complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, leaving not a single nuclear weapon, is the surest way of guaranteeing the safety of 70 million Korean people. In other words, Mr. Kim has expressed his intention to return to the principle of the Joint Denuclearization Declaration of 1992 that proclaimed nuclear disarmament as the surest way of guaranteeing the safety of the Korean people.
The horrific damage ― rather, destruction ―that a nuclear bomb can bring to the world has already been proved by the tragedy in Hiroshima some 60 years ago. Even today, after 60 years, the fear of nuclear weapons expands day by day. At the 60th anniversary commemorating the signing of the UN Charter last month, the largest concern of the leaders of the international community was the issue of nuclear proliferation and the means to control it. Robert McNamara, a former defense secretary of the United States, which holds the largest nuclear weapons stockpile, confessed that he still suffered from nightmares whenever he recalled the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, when the United States came closest to the outbreak of nuclear war. From this, I could understand why he still actively participates in anti-nuclear movements at the age of 89. In the middle of rising international concern like this over nuclear weapons and terrorism, it is historically significant that the joint denuclearization declaration has re-emerged as a clue to the solution to inter-Korean problems.
On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese rule, we need to have the wisdom and peace of mind to contemplate what is the most important thing for the Korean people. It was natural that we, after liberation from the bitter experience of colonization, gave the highest value to the establishment and safeguarding of an independent nation. But we should not forget that there can’t be a nation without people, and that a national goal that is not based on the human rights and welfare of the people will sicken the society.
That is why “human security” is no less important than “national security.” This conforms to the traditional value cherished by the Korean people: devotion to the welfare of mankind. Therefore, it is proper that the value based on human security should be the standard of our choice at the crossroads of war and peace. The era when the security and welfare of the people were neglected while the attempts to maintain the regime were justified by a theory of inviolable sovereignty is over now. The legitimacy of the denuclearization declaration that was pledged to the whole Korean people 13 years ago lies there.
The fourth round of the six-party talks that resumed yesterday has attracted the attention of the whole world, as well as our people. We sincerely hope that both the United States and North Korea, especially the North, will make a strategic choice to overcome the crisis. In this case, the strategic choice will be made not on the level of a country or regime. It will be made if there is a will to make the security of 70 million Korean people the most important standard.
To make such a choice, the North must first take the bold step of shedding fixed notions of the past. For example, it should note that the South Korea-U.S. alliance is not a threat to the North, but actually restrains the U.S. in its military options. If the North is still operating under the misconception that it can change the military balance overnight by inducing the withdrawal of the U.S. forces from Korea, it should correct that misconception as soon as possible.
There is no partial solution to the nuclear problem. Now we are at a crucial juncture at which we can reconfirm the security of the nation by maintaining the denuclearization declaration that we pledged in front of our 70 million compatriots and the whole world. We must live up to the principle that prohibits both Koreas from testing, manufacturing, producing, receiving, possessing, storing, deploying or otherwise using nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula. The agreement that the two sides will conduct inspections of locations chosen by the other side, and mutually agreed to by both sides, through the procedure established by the South-North Joint Nuclear Control Commission, should be respected even more than an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. It should be honored with an even stronger binding force.
Eleven years ago yesterday, on July 25, 1994, the first historic South-North Summit Meeting was scheduled to begin. But only 17 days ahead of the historic event, on July 8, Kim Il Sung died abruptly. It was a misfortune for the nation. I believe he intended to change the North Korean system drastically, to suit the changing situation. This is the reason why I paid special attention to Kim Jong-il’s remark that he will follow the will of his late father, Kim Il Sung.

*The writer, a former prime minister, is an adviser to the JoongAng Ilbo. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Lee Hong-koo
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