[Outlook]Bogus declarationsPeace is like mirage when it is on the negotiation table. It appears just above the horizon and when you rush to catch it, it disappears. But people in power still use peace as an instrument to extend their reign.
When Henry Kissinger served as the U.S. national security adviser, he was negotiating peace with North Vietnam. On Oct. 22, 1972, he confidently declared before reporters, “Peace is at hand.” That was 10 days before the election in which then-President Richard Nixon was running for his second term. It was nearly three years before the fighting actually stopped.
Besides, it was not the peace that the United States had hoped for. The war ended because of defeat and withdrawal that was shameful to America.
Since then, the expression “Peace is at hand” is used to describe false declarations that mislead people for political purposes.
A summit meeting between South and North Korea has been postponed from late August until early October.
The new date is much closer to South Korea’s presidential election, so the meeting will have far more influence on the election than originally scheduled.
Apart from any substantial achievements, the summit meeting between President Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Jong-il will have after-effects for more than a month. The ruling party circle’s candidate will be euphoric, while Lee Myung-bak, the Grand National Party’s candidate, will need to be on guard against aftereffects of the summit meeting.
When the 2000 summit meeting between South and North Korea was being planned, North Korea insisted on making the announcement just three days before the April 13 general elections in South Korea. Lim Dong-won, the head of the National Intelligence Service, suggested to the Blue House that the announcement be made after the general election. The Blue House suggested the idea to North Korea, but North Korea did not change its mind.
As shown in this incident, North Korea has every intention of intervening in South Korea’s politics. It is doubtful that North Korea wants to postpone the summit meeting this time because of the floods, as it insists is the case.
Flood or no flood, there is no doubt that North Korea is determined to prevent a power shift in South Korea. It wants the summit meeting to have strong effects on the campaign. Any effect will send the same message as “peace is at hand.”
The two main items on the agenda of the summit meeting are an economic community between South and North Korea and peace on the Korean Peninsula. Creating an economic community requires an astronomical amount of money. The money comes from taxpayers. The larger the blueprint of the economic community, the more fiercely the people will debate the feasibility of the plan. Thus, an economic community will not help the ruling circle’s candidate win votes.
Lee’s blueprint for inter-Korean relations is more concrete and systemized than the Roh Moo-hyun administration’s policy of aid to North Korea, so it will block the effects of the North’s efforts in the economic field.
However, peace is another matter. If the administration signs a cliche peace declaration for the Korean Peninsula, without offending the United States and China, and if it stages events celebrating it until election day, it will make the campaign look like a battle between a candidate pursuing peace and another opposing peace.
Those who have not made up their minds about whom to vote for will likely vote for the ruling party circle’s candidate.
Nobody knows whether these votes will number 100,000 or 300,000. If a declaration of peace comes from North Korea, South Koreans must carefully study whether it is the kind of peace Henry Kissinger was talking about when he said, “Peace is at hand.”
Don Oberdorfer, an expert on the Korean Peninsula and professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, expressed concern about the summit meeting being held with the South Korean presidential election drawing near.
He said that a peace declaration does not necessarily bring peace. One made when North Korea’s nuclear issue has not been resolved is unrealistic, he added.
Lee’s blueprint for inter-Korean relations is mostly about the economy and has little content about peace. The blueprint is half finished. Lee must complement his policy by revealing plans to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia before the summit yields a strong influence. Of course, the premise for that is North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons program.
It is risky to rely on voters’ rational decisions. Lee must present blueprints to boost peace in order to break open the scenario of a battle between one candidate who pursues peace against another who opposes it.
*The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Young-hie