Stop the empty handoutsUnification Minister Lee Jae-jung said that while South Korea’s economy is 10 times larger than North Korea, it is impossible to have “give and take” relations.
He also said it is more important to receive intangible value than tangible substances from North Korea, and that the peaceful inter-Korean relations during the past several years have contributed to South Korea’s economic growth.
His remark seems to imply that we should provide assistance to North Korea without getting anything in return and that we will all then enjoy peace and a stronger economy. He does not seem to have thought seriously about the fact that the essence of inter-Korean relations are basically both confrontations and cooperation.
South Korean people understand that we do not expect economic rewards when we provide aid to North Korea.
However, there are South Koreans who are going through hardships because their families or relatives have been abducted by North Korea or remain there as prisoners of war.
We ask our government to resolve these issues. The government should also try to find ways to reduce threats of physical clashes while offering economic aid to North Korea.
But the government did not meet our demands. It attempted to raise the issues, but then backed off if North Korea resisted too strongly. If the government was determined to resolve the problems, it would not have failed to effectively use our card for assistance, which is worth several trillion won (several billion dollars), in an effective way.
The minister’s remark also causes serious problems in terms of national security.
The fact that North Korea possesses nuclear arms seriously threatens our national security.
To deter North Korea’s nuclear weapons, we need to use both sticks and carrots. Everybody knows that.
But Lee claims that if we keep providing assistance to North Korea with conditions attached, we will have peace. That is not persuasive at all.
It is good to improve inter-Korean ties through economic cooperation and assistance. We need to provide humanitarian assistance to North Korea.
But still, the government must have tactical considerations about how to resolve certain national issues through economic cooperation or economic assistance.
The government must not blindly believe that assistance will solve everything by itself.