North Korea policy failingThe policy on North Korea devised by Roh Moo-hyun’s administration is facing two problems. First, it lacks strategic thinking. The South Korean administration’s logic is too simplistic. It believes that if we do as North Korea wants us, North Korea will change. But the policy has had the opposite effect. North Korea has become hostile, instead of being moved by the Roh administration’s good intentions. Incredibly, North Korea said that its military-first policy protects South Korea’s security so the South must give rice to the North.
That’s not all. North Korea is interfering in South Korea’s domestic affairs. It even conducted a nuclear test, threatening the South. But South Korea has hardly uttered a word in protest, blindly believing that if we upset the North, inter-Korean relations will worsen. As a result, disagreement among South Koreans has become more serious, an obstacle when providing assistance to the North. Thus our North Korea policy is having a negative impact on South-North relations.
The next president must learn from this mistake. He or she must establish firm policies on the North Korea nuclear issue and South Koreans kidnapped by the North. The new leader has to deliver our intentions clearly to the North and not be so desperate to hold talks with the North. The next president must also limit the scope of the Ministry of Unification, whose prime goal is to establish dialogue with the North.
The second problem is that the South Korean administration has closed its eyes to the pain inflicted on residents in the North and ignored the North Koreans who escape across the border. That is due entirely to the government’s logic that we must not upset the North. But this approach is not credible now that North Korea has improved its relations with the United States, even though the U.S. president upset the North by including it in its “axis of evil.”
The biggest reason for our massive assistance to North Korea is to help North Koreans suffering from starvation and disease. But the incumbent South Korean administration has kneeled down to North Korean leaders’ threats and ignored the suffering taking place just across the border.
The next president must design a new framework for assisting North Korea that focuses on how to increase North Korea’s productivity, rather than offering simple assistance. Then, North Korea must carry out urgent reforms and open its doors to the world. China and Vietnam have proved such a policy works.
The next administration’s policy on North Korea must be aimed at urging North Korea to implement change. It won’t be easy. North Korea’s leaders will strongly resist such measures. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-il exemplified this spirit at the recent summit meeting with South Korea’s president.
We should not give up. We should persuade North Korea that opening up its borders will not initiate the collapse of its entire infrastructure and lead to its demise. We must convince the North that certain measures are needed to mitigate the pain that North Koreans suffer daily.
We are all Koreans and we need to co-exist peacefully in the harsh reality of the 21st century.