[Viewpoint]Selective candorOnce again, President Roh Moo-hyun has thrown not one, but many grenades. When he met with the Blue House accredited correspondents on Oct. 11, he told them some behind-the-scenes stories of the 2007 inter-Korean summit meeting, making many comments he surely knew would be controversial.
First of all, he said the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea is not a border, a remark beyond dangerous and improper. Regarding the Northern Limit Line, Roh said, “Many people think of it as a border, but they should acknowledge it is not an agreed-upon boundary between the South and the North. All of the land in the North is Korean territory under the Constitution, so it is more confusing if a line is drawn within it and called a border.”
He sounds logical, in a way. However, most international law scholars and other experts say it is a dangerous perspective.
Judge Park Choon-ho of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and Kyung Hee University Professor Emeritus Kim Chan-kyu said the Northern Limit Line is an internationally recognized actual maritime border.
Generally, constitutional scholars interpret Article 3 of the Constitution, “The territory of the Republic of Korea shall consist of the Korean Peninsula and its adjacent islands,” as emphasizing the sole legitimacy of the Republic of Korea as the peninsula’s government.
The reason Roh could not hide his emotion when he crossed the Military Demarcation Line on Oct. 2 was because the effects of the Constitution and the other laws are no longer valid in the North. In the Seoul-Sinuiju Line and Mount Kumgang regions, both the South and the North operate a customs, immigration and quarantine office on their sides of the Military Demarcation Line. The presence of those offices illustrate that both governments acknowledge the demarcation line as a border.
Therefore, if Roh had been talking about the Northern Limit Line along with the Military Demarcation Line, as he referenced in Article 3, he would have been more persuasive. However, by mentioning the Northern Limit Line alone, he ended up creating discord in the South.
Moreover, Roh made irresponsible remarks regarding “a third or a fourth party,” as defined in Article 4 of the “Declaration for the Development of Inter-Korean Relations and Peaceful Prosperity.”
Three or four countries are supposed to participate in signing a declaration to end the Korean War, but Roh said, “When I reviewed the draft in the process of revising it, it said the declaration would involve three or four parties. I was not particularly interested in it, so I didn’t pursue it further. In fact, I don’t quite know the significance of the declaration being a three- or four-party one.”
The involvement of three or four parties created a tremendous stir, not only in the United States and China but also in Korea. Still, the president, the very person who met with the North Korean leader, just signed it without realizing its significance. It is simply inconceivable, considering that government officials would stay up all night negotiating a single word in inter-Korean meetings.
Roh also inflamed controversy by saying he applauded at the Arirang performance to garner favor from the North. He said, “In order to make the most out of the meeting, it was better to win goodwill from the North.
If he was being polite as a guest, it would be more understandable. However, he disappointed many citizens by admitting he had been hoping to reach more favorable agreements by applauding at an event that praises the North Korean regime.
Aside from their ethnic identity as Koreans, the North’s system has virtually nothing in common with the South. It is hard to presume Pyongyang will agree on a peace system just because Roh made a favorable impression. The purpose of North Korea as a state is to adhere to its own socialist system under the leadership of Kim Jong-il.
Since his days as a president-elect, he has said he will freely speak his mind. With such candor, he should have affirmed and acknowledged the differences between the South and the North, even if it meant some awkward moments during the visit.
The perspective of the president holds a tremendous effect on the state’s policy. The North Korean policy, in particular, might be a stepping stone for the next president, but at the same time, it can be a burden. That’s why he should be more prudent when he talks about it. The citizens are hoping for a president who will qeuietly make an exit.
*The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Chul-hee