A poorly timed summitThe summit meeting with North Korea has been postponed until early October. Government officials say the reason for the postponement is the flooding in the North. TV footage of submerged streets in Pyongyang give us a clue of how serious the damage is. Holding a summit meeting at this time would have been too heavy a burden for the North. The postponement seems unavoidable.
However, it has made a new evaluation of the summit meeting itself a necessity. South Korea’s presidential elections in December and the six-party talks to be held in early September are sure to add new twists to the summit meeting that had not been anticipated.
First, we must consider the timing of the meeting. In all frankness, it was rash to try to hold the meeting in August. It was all too obvious that the North was trying to involve itself in South Korea’s presidential election. How else could we interpret the fact that the North accepted the idea of a meeting only four months before the elections when it had refused to do so for seven years during the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations?
If the summit meeting is to take place even closer to the elections, it will only appear more suspicious in the eyes of the public. Doubt could run so deep that people will begin questioning whether the flood is the only reason for the postponement.
In short, the circumstances can compromise the purity and transparency of the summit meeting.
Therefore, the government must be even more prudent and considerate in holding the meeting in October. It should not act in a way that aggravates internal strife in South Korean society nor succumb to any deals that would put a tax burden on the people.
Above all, it should bring the opposition party onboard and pursue an agenda that has the support of both parties. Now that the summit meeting is postponed, there is even more time to make preparations.
Early October means the meeting will come immediately before the presidential election. It will be only two and half months before President Roh steps down. No matter what agreements are reached in the scheduled meeting, they will have to be implemented by the next administration. No one can deny this fact.
The Roh Moo-hyun administration is being obstinate and irrational in insisting that the next administration follow through with whatever it starts.
Moreover, the South-North issue is a national task that must transcend politics. If this is true, then it is clear how this meeting must be done.
The summit must be during the next administration. Even if the summit meeting has been set for early October, we ask the government to reconsider whether this is indeed the best timing.