[Outlook]Broken pendulum

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[Outlook]Broken pendulum

Lee Myung-bak’s administration, faced with a serious crisis after only a little over 100 days have passed since the president’s inauguration, is contemplating reshuffling the cabinet and the Blue House.

Though we will have to wait and see how the shake-up will actually take place, the replacement of the foreign affairs and security team is being discussed.

Since it was the issue of U.S. beef imports that triggered the crisis, it is reasonable that the foreign affairs team take the responsibility.

Normally, it would be far too soon to ask the foreign affairs team to take the fall for its policy failure when it hasn’t even settled in since taking office. Nonetheless, it may be viewed as unavoidable that it be replaced.

If so, they shouldn’t just change the people in the posts, but improve the problematic aspects of the Lee government’s foreign affairs and security policies that have surfaced.

It is human nature that a new administration will attempt to differentiate itself from the previous one. However, the problem lies in how the changes were made.

At the inception of the Bush administration, the government began to try to do everything in the opposite way that it was done during the Clinton administration ? anything but Clinton. Such an approach is not acceptable, because as in everything in life, no policy is entirely right or wrong.

In the end, what we need is a pragmatic approach in which we take on the good aspects of the previous administration and get rid of the bad.

It is common knowledge that former President Roh Moo-hyun’s security and foreign affairs policy, including his stance toward North Korea, had angered the conservatives.

The Unification Ministry was the control tower of his foreign affairs and security policies and the ministry always put cooperation between North and South Korea as a priority.

This system was the subject of criticism. It is only right that the conservative Lee administration shift the policy line, after having succeeded in taking power from the liberals for the first time in 10 years.

The moves toward re-establishing relations with North Korea based on reciprocity and prioritizing the South Korea-U.S. alliance were part of these corrective actions.

The Lee administration got rid of the National Security Council secretariat and made the minister of foreign affairs and trade the chairman of the foreign security policy coordination council for the same reason.

But in the process, it looks as though the clock’s pendulum swung too far in the opposite direction. Either that, or the clock was broken.

For example, the Lee government claimed it would stop providing one-sided aid to North Korea, and is even hesitating in providing humanitarian aid.

In an attempt to revive the economy and restore tainted South Korea-U.S. relations as soon as possible, Lee rushed into the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement and made huge concessions in the U.S. beef import negotiations.

Dissatisfaction over the Ministry of Unification and National Security Council’s handling of foreign affairs policies has gone too far.

The new administration has almost gotten rid of the policy coordination system, which has led to policy confusion.

Over the last 10 years, the global environment and people’s awareness have changed tremendously.

Many are against being pushed around by North Korea, but not against talks. They value the alliance with the United States, but think it should be based on equality.

In the past, we only had to counter North Korea’s military threat, but now, we must comprehensively consider the military, diplomatic, economic, human rights and humanitarian aspects in our North Korea and foreign affairs policies. We now have a complex problem to solve.

Therefore, we must coordinate our policies more tightly. We need to formulate elaborate policies and put into place a proper policy decision system.

It is no longer simply a question of whether we are liberal or conservative. We need polished policies that take into account the range of people’s views and possible benefits from relations with North Korea and other nations.

Also, since foreign affairs and North Korea policies make up a big part of our national politics whether we like it or not, the Blue House should coordinate its moves and establish a sound organization that can realistically back them up.

It is foolish to follow the ideas of the past without being adequately critical, but indiscriminately rejecting everything is also wrong.

We hope the Lee administration’s new foreign affairs and security line-up will correct past wrongdoings and take up past achievements with an open mind.


*The writer is a professor at the Institute of International Affairs, Seoul National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Paik Jin-hyun
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