[EDITORIALS]Mr. Kim and the North

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[EDITORIALS]Mr. Kim and the North

Former President Kim Dae-jung has decided to postpone until June his plan to visit the North at the end of April. Mr. Kim said he was taking into account a possible political misunderstanding: that the visit would influence the May local elections. He also said he wanted a national consensus for the visit.
If Mr. Kim had pushed forward with his plan for a visit in April, the confrontation between the governing and opposition parties as well as conflicts in our society would have been worsened. Therefore, Mr. Kim made the right choice by courageously accepting objections to his plan.
We want to point out that the purpose of Mr. Kim’s visit is far more important than its timing. If Mr. Kim wants his visit to bear substantial fruits, there are many important points to remember. The purpose, first of all, must be clear. Ambiguous negotiations to arrange the visit should also be stopped.
While Mr. Kim has made public his hope to visit North Korea, he has never said anything about why he wanted to make the trip. The government said it supported Mr. Kim’s visit, but also made no mention of why Mr. Kim should go.
Rumors have spread that he would be discussing a loose form of a federation to unify the two Koreas; others said he was going to the North to bring back South Korean prisoners of war still alive in the North. Conflicts, therefore, worsened. Without clearly stating the purpose of the visit, postponing it will never bring about a national consensus.
It is desirable that a former president is making efforts to resolve the pending issues of the nation. But his role is limited, because he is not in office now. It is, therefore, important to make clear if Mr. Kim is an official government envoy or if his trip will be a private one. If he goes to the North as an envoy, his mission should also be made public. That will prevent confusion after his trip.
Because Mr. Kim will be visiting the North as a former president, whether this trip is official or not, what subjects he will address in the North also require caution. If Mr. Kim intends to address North Korea’s nuclear aspirations or the repatriation of South Korean POWs and kidnapped persons from the North, that would be very positive.
If he addresses controversial issues such as a method for unification, unwanted trouble will be initiated in the South.
If Mr. Kim sees no possibility of having some tangible outcome after he conducts preparatory talks with the North, it would be wise for him to reconsider his visit.
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