[OUTLOOK]Put country before sense of nationPresident Roh Moo-hyun’s foreign policy emphasizing self-reliance has encountered warning signals both within and outside the country. The United Nations resolution on North Korea has transformed the North’s missile and nuclear issues from the format of North Korea versus the United States into a format of North Korea versus the international community. Thus, the emphasis on cooperation between the two Koreas has lost its foothold. Seoul is in a dilemma. It cannot work with the international community to put pressure on North Korea but also cannot protect North Korea from the international community.
Although the UN resolution sounds soft, it can make a strong impact. While giving North Korea only one option ― to return to the six-party talks ― it allows nations to impose sanctions on the country in the event that Pyongyang acts provocatively in the future. There is no chance for South Korea to work as a mediator. Such preconditions as dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington or easing financial sanctions can no longer be mentioned. If economic cooperation between the two Koreas continued separately from the North’s missile and nuclear issues, the international community will look closely at the transparency of such projects.
As the UN resolution was followed by condemnatory statements by the heads of the world’s eight richest countries, North Korea has been pushed to the edge of a cliff. China has lost face as it had tried hard to persuade North Korea only to fail.
However, the Roh administration has been damaged the most. In an attempt to downplay the gravity of the North’s missile launchings, the Blue House said that the missiles were not aimed at anybody in particular and that the incident was not an national security emergency but only a political event. Those remarks have been ridiculed by international society.
Mr. Roh and his men in charge of foreign affairs and national security criticized Japan for an “excessive” reaction to the missile launches, instead of condemning the North for firing the missiles. They have lost trust not only from South Koreans but also from the international community.
Mr. Roh’s foreign policy emphasizing cooperation between the Koreas and self-reliance has become increasingly unwelcome. Although South Korea is the party that is most likely to be affected by the North’s missile incident, the United States and Japan did not talk with Seoul in the course of pushing for their proposal in the United Nations Security Council. China and Russia made a draft proposal on their own and later asked for support from the South Korean government.
North Korea claims that the nuclear and missile issues are matters between Pyongyang and Washington alone and insists that Pyongyang and Seoul should talk about economic cooperation only. Neither the alliance between the United States and Japan, nor the bond between China and Russia, not even North Korea, which the South has tried to embrace, is on our side.
The Sunshine policy has resulted in division between South Koreans by weakening our sense of national security and shaking the South Korean identity, rather than inducing changes in North Korea. Because of this, North Korea has become even more arrogant as if all Koreans were communist.
North Korea regards 70 million Koreans, the residents of both Koreas and those Koreans living abroad, as the starting point to resolve all problems. However, if two states want to cooperate ― although they claim to be the same nation ― the cooperation must be based on certain rules, not merely on identity or sentiment of “same nation.” An emotional approach is like blind belief. When people have long lost their country and feel nostalgic about the word “nation,” they tend to be emotional and are likely to be misled by the expression.
When Germany remained divided, people of the two countries could travel freely under certain rules and economic trade between them widened. Their reunification still came as a shock. What matters is rules. West Germany had a peace policy on East Germany, without reunification in mind. East Germany was a normal country that was predictable and abided by international agreements. West Germany provided funds to East Germany officially and East Germany made political concessions so that tensions were eased and cooperation was possible.
However, North Korea is bankrupt, isolated from international society and violates international agreements. Having North Korea as a diplomatic partner is nearly impossible, but Mr. Roh has embraced the communist state with an emphasis on “same nation” and this policy has caused all types of problems.
We are living in a global era in which mankind should be prioritized over nation and human rights should be emphasized in order to enhance the dignity of a country and its diplomacy. Cooperation between the same Korean nation should no longer be emphasized to the extent that it shakes South Korea to the very core of our lives, and ridicules South Korea’s diplomacy in international society. The sovereign state, the Republic of Korea, should come first, and only after that the Korean nation.
* The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Byun Sang-keun