[Outlook]North could do worse than GNP

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[Outlook]North could do worse than GNP

Are Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye conservative and anti-communist forces who would instigate a war, as North Korea claims? Is the Grand National Party’s stance on North Korea and its belligerence getting worse? Is it true that if Lee assumes power, the Korean Peninsula will have a war? If Lee or Park become president, will reverse the Sunshine Policy of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, just as U.S. President George W. Bush changed Bill Clinton’s North Korea policy?
North Korea’s campaign to condemn Lee and Park is so loud that there was no way not to hear it. So I met the two presidential hopefuls one-on-one, with four hours apart between the meetings, and listened to their North Korea policies. I read scripts of their speeches and reports on North Korea policy, and listened to debates on policies among the presidential aspirants of the Grand National Party. I drew two conclusions.
Contrary to the image that the Grand National Party has created on its North Korea policy, both Lee and Park have pragmatic and realistic North Korea policies. North Korea’s claim is based on their “strategic misunderstanding” of the presidential hopefuls of the Grand National Party.
According to Lee’s MB doctrine on inter-Korean relations, the highlight of his North Korea policy is to increase North Korea’s national per- capita income from the current $500 (the Bank of Korea estimates $914) to $3,000 within 10 years. South Korea achieved that level in 1987 when almost every household began to own a color TV and a car. The MB doctrine consists of plans to have 100 exporters that export more than $3 million worth each in North Korea to train 300,000 industrial workers; to create $40 billion of international funds; to build an expressway between Seoul and Sinuiju; and to resolve North Korea’s absolute poverty by providing food and medical supplies.
These lead to a question: “With what money?”
For that, Lee’s answer is convincing. “It will not be difficult. We can raise $30 billion from Official Development Assistance from many countries. Another $40 billion can be collected from the World Bank’s assistance for infrastructure and from Japan for compensation money after North Korea and Japan normalize ties.” For South Korea, small- and medium-sized companies will invest, build factories and produce goods in North Korea, as a way to assist the North. Denuclearization is a pre-requisite of these plans.
Park’s North Korea policy was well described in her speech delivered at Cambridge University in 2002. Park prioritizes peace, not reunification, in her North Korea policy. She maintains that we should not stick to the idea of reunification in terms of politics and territory. When we become a united economic community in which freedom of movement between the South and the North is guaranteed and military confrontation has disappeared, we can accept this as the same as reunification.
Park has a three-step reunification theory. First, we achieve peace by eliminating nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula. Second, South and North Korea create an economic community, achieving a unified economy. Third, we create a community of a single nationality and move on to political reunification. Her theory underscores the importance of de facto reunification, rather than de jure reunification.
“First, peace, then reunification,” is the foundation of Kim Dae-jung’s Sunshine Policy. Park also thinks that reunification is something we earn from the process of preparing for it. She shares the convictions of people from the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations who say the best way to reach reunification is by going through the steps.
Park’s North Korea policy includes a scheme to establish a Northeast development bank and to systematically support reconstruction of North Korea’s society and economy. That has just one weak spot. If she is strict about reciprocity, her policy can become inflexible.
If either Lee or Park assumes power, he or she will complement their North Korea policy using the other’s policy. Through dialogue, they will include North Korea’s opinion. When it comes to their North Korea policies and their perception of the North, there is no reason for North Korea to refuse these presidential hopefuls.
In the United States, the conservative president Richard Nixon started improving ties between the United States and China in 1971. Lee or Park, supported by conservative forces, can implement North Korea policy without creating conflict with them.
But North Korea incites South Koreans to do anything to stop either Lee or Park from assuming power, not because of the policies of these hopefuls, but because of an old-fashioned dichotomy pitting the conservative Grand National Party against the progressive and leftwing ruling circle. Does North Korea really not know that its attempts to influence the election will backfire? If North Korea likes Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun so much that it does not want to see the Grand National Party assume power, it is better for it to stop attacking Lee and Park. That will only make them get more votes.

*The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kim Young-hie
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