Cowardly appeasementThe Ministry of Unification has changed statements about the reform and opening of North Korea that were on its Web site. The site originally said that North Koreans must develop a market economy and, in the process, create an industrial complex and pursue reforms that would make it a more open society.
These bromides have now been changed to something more anodyne, saying that North Korea shall acquire the knowledge and experience to develop its own economy at its own pace.
President Roh Moo-hyun said that it is up to North Korea to open its doors and initiate reforms, and South Korea should not use imperatives in its discussions with Pyongyang. The unification ministry has immediately jumped into line.
This reveals clearly that the incumbent administration’s policy toward North Korea is incompetent and cowardly.
The policy of the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations is controversial and has been characterized as “shoveling” aid to North Korea.
The two administrations defended the policy by saying that the goal of aid and cooperation was to persuade North Korea to reform and be more open. That explanation soothed an anxious public.
But the government has now abandoned its principles and no longer seems interested in whether North Korea opens its doors or not. According to the government’s new stance, South Korea must provide unconditional aid and must not care whether food aid goes to the North Korean people or toward buying a Mercedes for Kim Jong-il.
The people need to know the goal of projects like an economic special zone in Haeju, which will cost billions of dollars. The government must clarify what this project is expected to achieve, if it is no longer part of a wider program to get North Korea to open its doors and implement reforms.
Another problem is that President Roh changed his ideas the moment that Kim Jong-il complained about South Korea’s previous stance. Will he respond the same way whenever Kim expresses discomfort?
For instance, what if he says we should not use the phrase “South Koreans abducted by North Korea”? South Korea has talked about the North implementing reforms for decades, but each of the two summit meetings were in North Korea. The ministry must restore the original expressions of policy to its Web site. Anything less would be an act of cowardly appeasement toward the North.