[VIEWPOINT]Can the North ever be tamed?Former President Kim Young-sam mercilessly criticized former President Kim Dae-jung and President Roh Moo-hyun for having championed the engagement policy toward North Korea in the face of the whole nation. At a luncheon meeting held at the Blue House on Tuesday Mr. Kim said, “The situation we are in now is brought to us because former President Kim Dae-jung started the sunshine policy and President Roh Moo-hun, succeeding Mr. Kim’s sunshine policy unfolded the engagement policy.” He also asked the two to apologize to the people.
It is regrettable to point out, but it was former President Kim Young-sam himself who started the “wrong engagement policy” toward North Korea. When he took power in 1993, he had the ambition to be a national leader, surpassing the status of being the first civilian president. In his inaugural address, Kim Young-sam proposed a summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Il-sung. In the address, he mentioned a phrase that no previous presidents remarked before: “No ally can be better than the same nation.”
Does that remark mean that North Korea is better than the United States or Japan? The conservatives opened their eyes wide. The next day, Han Wan-sang, then deputy prime minister and minister of national unification and current president of the Red Cross, said at a press interview held upon his inauguration, “The unification, reconciliation and happiness of the same nation is more important than any thoughts or ideologies.” It was another theory which put priority to the same nation.
Something finally happened two weeks later. Kim Young-sam announced that he would send long-term prisoner Lee In-mo, 76, who had refused to convert from communism, to North Korea without conditions. Mr. Lee was the one North Korea asked to repatriate to the North because he suffered from illness but had no family members or relatives in the South who could take care of him, although he was released from prison in October 1988, after serving a prison term of 34 years. The Roh Tae-woo administration had been playing a tug of war with North Korea on the basis of reciprocity. The Roh administration asked North Korea to agree on the family reunion plan which included the establishment of a meeting place for separated family members dispersed to the South and North and allowing mutual visits of the family members to the other side in return for the repatriation of Lee In-mo. But Kim Young-sam simply threw away this important card.
Two days later, a betraying return message arrived from North Korea. It was North Korea’s declaration that it would leave the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Kim Young-sam agonized over the issue for some time. After a few days, he decided to take the position of solving the nuclear problem through talks and negotiations, and he sent Mr. Lee to the North as scheduled. North Korea gave him and his family a lot of privileges.
The North Korean regime showed its people that if anyone stands by the communist belief, he would be rewarded with such privileges. Lee In-mo, probably was an effective stimulant that helped the North Korean people overcome a period of destitution called, “The hardship march,” during the mid-1990s. North Korea was occupied with its nuclear development program and Kim Young-sam started to realize that he made a wrong decision. In his National Liberation Day address delivered on Aug. 15, 1993, Mr. Kim proclaimed that “It is not possible to shake hands with the one that holds nuclear weapons.”
Kim Jung-nam, who was in charge of the preparation of Kim Young-sam’s inaugural speech and who later became the senior presidential secretary for education and culture, explained that the phrase, “No ally is more important than the same nation,” was addressed to North Korean leader Kim Il-sung, not the people of South Korea. He said that it was a message, saying, “Your trusted allies Russia and China established diplomatic relations with us in the end. You should realize that the one you can trust in the end is no one else but the same nation, South Korea.”
Unfortunately, however, that statement contributed to the growth of the nation priority theory that North Korea and pro-North Korean forces in the South became so fond of.
Kim Dae-jung and President Roh should have learned a lesson from the costly mistake of Kim Young-sam. They should have realized that reciprocity and alliance are important to tame North Korea. But it did not have much educational effect on Kim Dae-jung and President Roh.
Kim Dae-jung in general succeeded in maintaining the Korea-U.S. alliance. However, he failed to ask reciprocity in his deal with the North. In order to materialize the historic South-North summit meeting in 2000, he paid $450 million to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, but he failed to get back as much.
President Roh has failed both in demanding reciprocity to North Korea and in maintaining alliance with the United States properly. He tried to abolish National Security Law, although North Korea did not budge an inch to revise its cruel criminal law.
While North Korea was busy developing nuclear weapons, we clung to the issue of transferring the wartime control of our troops from Washington.
Although it is belated, the president must change his way of thinking since the North which he tried to embrace so much has finally tested a nuclear device.
After all, this is now a problem which our nation’s fate may hinge upon.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin