[Outlook]A step ahead

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[Outlook]A step ahead

Experts on Korea, both inside and outside the country, expect that the agenda of the second summit meeting between South and North Korea will include North Korea’s nuclear issue, a peace plan for the Korean Peninsula and economic cooperation.
But there is another issue that must be dealt with seriously ― reunification.
The two leaders’ agreement to meet signifies inter-Korean relations are ready to upgrade to a higher level. The meeting is also potentially important in advancing the cause of Korea’s reunification.
In the 2000 summit talks, Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s leader, brought up the reunification issue with Kim Dae-jung, then president of South Korea, and offered a tentative agreement.
“South and North Korea, recognizing that there is a common element in the confederation proposed by the South and the low-level federation proposed by the North, agree to pursue reunification.” This is the second clause of the June 15 South-North Joint Declaration.
The Kim administration maintained that President Kim persuaded the North Korean leader to give up the scheme of forming a federation.
A former official of the Ministry of Reunification explained that North Korea agreed with the idea of forming a South-North confederation, the second phase of the Korean National Community Unification Formula, as South Korea’s official blueprint for reunification is called. The incumbent government is placing great emphasis in this.
However, North Korea made a totally different argument in October 2000 after the summit meeting was held. In a report by an official at the [North Korean] Committee for Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, the North said, “The principle of having one nationality, one country, two systems and two governments will be abided by, but the two governments in South and North Korea will keep their current functions and rights in politics, in the military and in diplomacy, and later an organization for reunification will be created.
In that way South-North relations will improve and move toward a reunification that will benefit all Korean nationals.”
That means as South Korea finds it difficult to accept a federation based on one country, North Korea will admit South Korea has its own rights in politics, military and diplomacy.
An organization for reunification must be set up as soon as possible in order to establish a federation.
What draws attention is former President Kim’s remarks in a cabinet meeting on June 16, 2000.
He said that in the summit meeting he explained his own three-step reunification plan ― a South-North confederation, a federation and reunification.
The first step is to continue the current coexistence.
This shows that when Kim discussed a blueprint for reunification with the North Korean leader, he relied on his own formula, not South Korea’s.
The confederation proposed by the South in the second clause of the joint declaration is not the second phase of the Korean National Community Unification Formula. That was the first phase of Kim’s three-step scheme.
They are subtly different.
In the upcoming summit talks, North Korea might suggest that as seven years have passed since the first summit meeting, we should advance to a higher level of reunification.
North Korea might demand that an organization for reunification be established and pursue reunification by forming a federation.
Thus, we need to clarify our stance.
The most important reference are the notes that a high official at the Ministry of Unification made to record the dialogue between the two Korean leaders during the first summit talks; as the official was the only staff attending the talks.
But these notes are missing, even though the office for inter-Korean meetings in the Ministry of Unification has a duty to keep and preserve all data and references related to inter-Korean meetings.
So the government authorities in charge of reunification policy cannot study the content of the first summit meeting and prepare for the second one. All government workers involved must bear responsibility for this. North Korea must have tapes and scripts that recorded the entire summit talks, since the talks were held in North Korea.
South Korea should not take the reunification issue lightly. We South Koreans must be well prepared for North Korea’s demand for a federation for reunification.
This time an official government measure, not the president’s own opinion as an individual, must be prepared.

*The writer is a visiting professor at Hallym University and former vice minister for reunification. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Cho Kun-shik
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