[Outlook]A selective peaceOn Oct. 17, 1990, the second senior-level meeting between South and North Korea was held.
In the meeting, Kang Young-hoon, South Korea’s top envoy and prime minister, made an unprecedented remark about North Korea.
He said that the North must give up its ambition to make South Korea communist.
He made the remark in part because North Korea was being pushed into a corner by the collapse of Eastern European socialist countries.
The North Korean envoys protested, saying Ahn’s remark was meant to incite anger.
A North Korean then mentioned Article 3 of South Korea’s Constitution, which stipulates that Korea’s territory is the Korean Peninsula and its islands. He said the article reveals an attempt to put the South Korean flag on top of Mount Baekdu. They insisted the South must erase the article.
This shows that the North is very cautious and alert about Article 3. Seventeen years have passed. Something quite contrary to the earlier incident is happening now.
President Roh Moo-hyun referred to the same article of the Constitution and declared that the Northern Limit Line on the Yellow Sea is not a territorial border. He maintained that the entire Korean Peninsula is Korean territory so it makes no sense to have a border within the territory. However, this logic is not very persuasive.
In the debates over the NLL, which have been going on for months, a territory was understood as an area where both South and North Korea have sovereignty.
It was about whether or not we should take any risks to protect it.
But the territory in Article 3 means something quite different. In the Constitution, the term “territory” was used as an expression to deliver our declaration.
That became clearer when South and North Korea joined the United Nations as two separate countries.
As long as South and North Korea have their own governments, the article is hard-pressed to be applied in reality.
If we accept President Roh’s logic, the truce line is also not a border. President Roh said that he will handle the NLL issue in accordance with the 1992 agreement between South and North Korea.
That remark reveals that his logic is self-contradictory. The agreement was signed on the basis that the Republic of Korea and the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea accept each other.
But Article 3 of the Constitution doesn’t accept North Korea’s regime, so it will be impossible to sign the agreement.
The president seems to have referred to the article in order to refute the argument that the NLL is a border. But his argument has many flaws in its logic so one self-contradiction leads to another. President Roh has been trying to understand North Korea’s regime from the North’s own perspective.
He even swore not to use the expression “North Korea’s opening its doors and implementing reforms,” just because North Korea doesn’t like it.
It is perplexing because President Roh now seems to take Article 3 seriously, the very article that North Korea finds most disturbing.
The same thing must be true for Pyongyang. It must be content that the South Korean president sides with it over the NLL issue.
However, Roh also believes that North Korea is part of South Korea’s territory.
The North ignores this part of the issue, although it would protest furiously if it were any administration but Roh’s.
Summit meetings between South and North Korea are undoubtedly very important. Thus, we need to be well-prepared for them. Opinions of experts in relevent fields must be respected.
Regarding the NLL issue, Park Choon-ho, the judge of the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea, is one person who should be listened to. But the president listens to some professors who share his ideology but have little knowledge of the Constitution or military strategy. That is part of the reason why things are going awry.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-il has expressed ill feelings several times about the Chinese model of opening doors and carrying out reform.
But President Roh mentioned it abruptly because he was not well informed about this matter. That is why Kim counterattacked.
We want to see President Roh change his position.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Ahn Hee-chang