[VIEWPOINT]Time to admit Sunshine Policy’s failureSouth Korean politics are often affected by the North Korean variable. That possibility grows higher especially with presidential elections around the corner. In the 17th presidential election to be held in December of next year, the possibility that the North Korea factor will affect our domestic politics is higher than ever before. This is because the problem caused by North Korea’s nuclear test is not one that can be settled in a short time.
When President Roh Moo-hyun spoke of the necessity to reconsider the engagement policy toward North Korea, the liberal left-wing factions in our society protested against his remark. Former President Kim Dae-jung spearheaded the move.
The day after North Korea’s nuclear test, he said, “Through the Sunshine Policy, relations between South and North Korea have made proper developments and have brought fruitful results, too.” The next day, he asked, “Why should the engagement policy toward North Korea be blamed?” He placed the responsibility on the Bush administration. Around the time Kim Dae-jung was making such remarks, leftist groups such as the so-called jusapa, a “national liberation” faction that follows North Korea’s juche (or self-reliant) ideology; Hanchongryon, the nationwide left-leaning student organization; and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions poured out claims that emphasized the responsibility of the United States in the apparent nuclear test and expressed sympathy for North Korea.
The Democratic Labor Party, which is led by the national liberation front. The Democratic Party, which is still under the influence of Kim Dae-jung, and even a large number of Uri Party lawmakers joined in the move.
Kim Dae-jung suddenly raised his voice because his Sunshine Policy, which he thought of with pride as the accomplishment of a lifetime, and the Nobel Peace Prize he won in recognition of his contribution to peace on the Korean Peninsula, were on the brink of being discarded.
If his Sunshine Policy proves to be a failure, his political life will also be evaluated in the same way. The political situation is not favorable to Mr. Roh, either. The authority of the president has plummeted, and the governing party is groping for a way out by inviting a strong presidential candidate from outside the party or by seeking to restructure its political circle, because it cannot produce a viable presidential candidate.
Although they call it “a coalition of supporters of democracy and peace” or “the solidarity of reform forces that pursue a middle road,” in practice it is nothing but an attempt to reunite with the Democratic Party, from which the Uri Party bolted three years ago. What they intend to do is repeat the grand reversal staged during the 2002 presidential election, by pulling together the support of constituencies from Honam or Jeolla provinces and progressive forces.
Former President Kim Dae-jung comprehends the situation. That is why he has volunteered to play the role of a catalyst to promote the restructuring of a political community that is now floundering, unmoored.
This is the reason Kim Dae-jung has recently started to criticize the splintering of the Democratic Party and the introduction of special prosecutors to dig into the money-for-summit scandal haunting him.
Well aware of the dangers of contradicting the will of the incumbent president, he has been hiding his dissatisfaction. As the power of the current administration has weakened, he has started to criticize President Roh. Probably, he might have wanted to say that “Honam voters and the progressives chose Roh Moo-hyun by mistake. In the forthcoming restructuring of the political community, Mr. Roh should be excluded.”
President Roh expressed regrets to Kim Dae-jung by saying, “I am terribly sorry for making you feel uncomfortable yesterday,” by phone the day after the luncheon meeting with former presidents at the Blue House. This means that Kim Dae-jung is the winner under the present circumstances. Kim Geun-tae, chairman of the Uri Party, and his predecessor, Chung Dong-young, have surrendered to Kim Dae-jung, proclaiming that they will ensure the success of the Sunshine Policy and that the creation of the Uri Party was a failure. For an old politician well over 80 years of age, his personal honor might be more important than the fate of the whole nation. But I cannot understand the attitude of the ruling party. As to the argument that the United States is responsible for North Korea’s nuclear test, I don’t mean to say that Washington is free from any responsibility, but the argument is dangerous because it can induce people to misunderstand.
The top priority is to arrest the serial killer. If the police, without trying to catch the culprit, go around saying, “The society that bred such a criminal is responsible for the crime,” what would the people think of the police? What the governing party is doing now is like that.
The assertion that “We have to have a dialogue with North Korea” is also amateurish. As Lee Jong-seok, minister of unification, said, the police would try to have a dialogue even with a kidnapper to save the life of a hostage. But a dialogue with a kidnapper is possible only after deploying a task force of police squads to surround the crime scene.
The dialogue argument carries the danger of sending a wrong message to North Korea, that the South cannot do anything against the North because it is afraid of provoking a war even if North Korea goes ahead with a nuclear test or threatens the South with nuclear weapons. The channel for dialogue should be left open even during war, but this is a time for us to show our firm determination.
I would like to ask those in the ruling camp: Are you aiming to gain political benefit, as in the controversy over Hyo-sun and Mi-seon, two school girls killed by a U.S. military vehicle, created during the 2002 presidential election, by arguing that the United States is responsible for the North’s nuclear test? Are you under the illusion that siding with North Korea unconditionally makes you progressive? Are you trying to terrify people into line by saying that “war on the Korean Peninsula should be prevented?”
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Du-woo
More in Columns
A cautionary tale
A government in disarray
China’s thin skin
The Korean War from China’s view
Who’s laughing now?