[Viewpoint]After the summit

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[Viewpoint]After the summit

The government announcement of another South-North summit meeting came as a surprise to me. But it is nothing new, because politicians have been debating the issue for a long time.
For more than a year, there has been a war of words between the government, which said a summit meeting was necessary even though it had not pushed for one; and the opposition party, which said the summit was being clandestinely arranged to help the governing party in the upcoming presidential election.
Therefore, we need to take a closer look at whether the summit will be a success ― and whether it should be held now, even though it’s happening under a cloud of suspicion.
Judging from the government’s announcement, the North and the South have agreed, to begin with, simply to hold the summit meeting. They will decide the agenda of the meeting through further discussions.
In the first South-North summit in June 2000, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il promised to pay a return visit to the South.
The decision that the president of South Korea will visit Pyongyang again, although the promise of a return visit has not yet materialized, gives the impression that the South is being pulled around by the North.
The South’s government will have a hard time avoiding severe criticism if it follows the footsteps of former President Kim Dae-jung by endowing large amounts to the North in return for the summit.
If the government, instead of paying cash, promised a large-scale aid project to the North, this will also create a serious problem, because it will put an enormous indirect burden on taxpayers’ shoulders.
Regardless of the political goals that led to the holding of this summit, we must fully support and assist it.
This second round could be a meaningful watershed for the resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue and for peace on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea has often used words such as the “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” and “a wish for peace and order” in the past.
At the summit, North Korea should present a detailed and actual plan, instead of empty words, for the elimination of its nuclear facilities and for the restoration of trust between the South and the North.
If there is only a verbal agreement to dissolve the current system, which was set up under the armistice agreement of 1953, and a declaration of peace decorated with fine phrases about the blueprint of a peaceful unification, the summit will become nothing but another political show. The road leading up to the establishment of a unified free democratic country ― which South Korea hopes to accomplish ― is long and rough.
The summit should not neglect certain stages or only emphasize abstract words such as peace and unification.
Both sides must promise to implement concrete measures that require immediate action instead of exchanging political rhetoric.
It is imperative that the South-North summit accompany the consensus of the people and the rest of the world.
If the meeting produces principles and agreements that differ greatly from the next administration’s policy on North Korea, the summit’s effects will be short-lived, something only between the current governments of the two countries.
We also need to consider such elements as Korea’s military alliance with the United States and the existing North Korea policies in relation to China, Japan and Russia before we promote our own North Korea policy.
If we decide to cooperate with the North on the basis of national homogeneity, while other neighboring countries follow a different policy, our diplomatic isolation will grow.
The South-North summit must serve the interests of the Republic of Korea, not the regime of the North.

The writer is a professor of political science at Sungkyunkwan University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

By Kim Tae-hyo


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