[EDITORIALS]Minister, take heedNewly appointed Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok is also expected to hold the second highest position on the National Security Council. Clearly, this means that Mr. Lee will have the most authority on national defense and domestic policing. After guiding the Blue House on inter-Korean relations and diplomacy with the United States, Mr. Lee now steps to the forefront of overall security policy. During his time at the Blue House, this government put more emphasis on the “one nation” concept rather than the South Korea-U.S. alliance, thus increasing frictions within the South.
Now that such a person stands at the forefront, future changes in the relationship between South Korea and the United States along with inter-Korean relations are at the center of attention. This government has granted most requests by the North, including financial aid and participation in the Arirang Festival. Nevertheless, the government has neglected basic duties in protecting its citizens by turning a blind eye to such issues as South Koreans kidnapped by the North and prisoners of war still held captive there. It will be interesting to see whether Mr. Lee, now that he has become a minister, will expand the current policy or begin to ask the North for things in return for South Korea’s cooperation.
The deteriorating South Korea-U.S. alliance is also a matter of concern. In the past, Mr. Lee emphasized the importance of the alliance, saying that it was in South Korea’s national interest. Nevertheless, the reality of the past three years has rendered such remarks useless. The government has judged that while acknowledging the importance of the alliance outwardly, it is politically beneficial to show that Seoul is on an equal footing. Surely, what needs to be said towards Washington needs to be said. But we should not forget the reality in which we live. We have to think about why Japan or China, which have more national power than us, are trying to have a smooth relationship with the United States.
Despite the joint statement adopted on Sept. 19, the North Korean nuclear issue is going in a negative direction. The relationship between Seoul and the United States and Japan is also in a state of conflict. Inter-Korean relations are said to be improving but in military matters things are not moving forward. The new minister should keep in mind that in such a circumstance, to lean on a ‘one-nation’ concepts will only result in South Korea’s isolation on the international stage and in a failure to resolve current issues.