A poisoned chalice?South Korea’s President Roh and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-il have signed a Declaration on the Advancement of South-North Korean Relations, Peace and Prosperity. The eight-point declaration includes a formal peace on the Korean Peninsula, easing military tension and enhancing economic cooperation in concrete ways. If implemented faithfully, the distrust and confrontation that have existed between South and North Korea for the last 60 years should come largely to an end.
The South and the North agreed to have the leaders of the other countries who are directly involved in these issues convene on the peninsula to discuss a formal end to the Korean War. It is uncertain how the United States and China will respond to this.
But it is still meaningful that the leaders of South and North Korea met and agreed to the proposal. This is the first step to removing the fundamental basis of insecurity on the Korean Peninsula.
Projects for economic cooperation between South and North Korea will also bring benefits only if they are carried out as written down. However, there are questions about the feasibility of this declaration. For this grand plan to succeed, three types of capital are needed. First, political capital. That means the people’s interest and support. The second is diplomatic capital. The third is economic capital.
The declaration is meaningful because it laid down a direction for peace on the Korean Peninsula and the restoration of brotherhood among people of the same blood. The package is also ambitious and there are countless tasks that must be accomplished to implement it fully.
The same applies to the Northern Limit Line. The issue was deferred until talks between defense ministers in November. But it’s ridiculous that President Roh did not mention South Koreans kidnapped by the North or prisoners of war still in North Korea. The president has emphasized the importance of human rights, but he seems uninterested in the human rights of his own people.
The next president after Roh will now bear additional responsibilities. Most of the contents of the declaration need more negotiations and consultation in the future.
The next administration will be expected to embrace the spirit of the declaration but it must also thoroughly re-examine it in terms of its economic feasibility and its impact on the South Korea-U.S. alliance. We must remember that sometimes a chalice passed is a chalice poisoned.