Benefit both Koreas‘Since the two Koreas adopted the [South-North] Basic Agreement in 1991, new agreements were made between the two Koreas’ leaders, but the Basic Agreement is the most important to the inter-Korean spirit,” President Lee Myung-bak said yesterday. By saying this, he effectively stipulated that the June 15, 2000 joint declaration and the Oct. 4, 2007 joint declaration between the two Koreas were subordinate to the Basic Agreement. “I will not conduct inter-Korean talks as done in the past,” Lee also said, expressing his intention to stop talking to the North for the sake of talk or providing aid to the North blindly.
The basic agreement stipulates the specific measures that the two Koreas must take in order to achieve reconciliation, nonaggression, exchanges and cooperation. The agreement is nearly perfect. The two Koreas agreed to recognize each other, not intervene in each other’s internal affairs, not engage in armed provocation, resolve conflicts peacefully and allow exchange and contact. The agreement, therefore, was perceived as the charter for improving inter-Korean relations and peaceful unification, and North Korea agreed to it. If the two Koreas continued give-and-take negotiations based on the Basic Agreement, then inter-Korean relations would see enormous improvement.
The agreement, however, went missing during the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations. Instead, Seoul implemented policies of engaging and supporting Pyongyang’s position unconditionally. The dialogue with the North lost focus. Seoul was desperate to talk to Pyongyang, and when the dialogue froze, Seoul panicked. It was inevitable that Pyongyang would hold control over the talks.
The joint declarations of the June 15, 2000 and Oct. 4, 2007 summits were the outcome of such wrong policies. The declarations also included the phrase, “Only by Koreans,” and Seoul turned a blind eye to the term, through which the North intended to cause an internal split in the South. There was only unconditional support for the North, and it was inevitable that actual progress in the inter-Korean relations was far off.
From now on, the framework of inter-Korean talks should be the basic agreement. The joint declarations should be implemented selectively within this framework. The issue is the repercussions from the North. Seoul, however, must not give in. It should correct the wrongful way of talking to the North, even if the change means conflict. In the long term, that is the only way to benefit both Koreas.