Realism and tact

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Realism and tact

Relations between South and North Korea are steadily getting worse. In particular, tension is building up as the North Korean-declared date after which overland passage across the inter-Korean border will be limited comes in one week’s time.

It’s time that government authorities on both sides change their way of thinking.

First, North Korea should stop its habit of threatening its counterpart to gain advantage. Such tactics do not yield beneficial effects and contribute to the negative perceptions of South Koreans about the North.

Pyongyang has disparaged the Lee Myung-bak administration, making clear its distaste. It also refused to offer a heartfelt apology for the killing of a South Korean tourist in Mount Kumgang in July this year.

Second, the North should break from its doctrinaire position regarding the Oct. 4 [2007] Joint Declaration, and look at it from a more realistic perspective. The cost of implementing the provisions in the announcement will be astronomical.

The projects are so massive that the government in Seoul will need national consensus first. It would be foolish to carry out construction of the agreed shipbuilding complex without reservation or preliminary research.

It will be difficult to implement the economic provisions, particularly under the current circumstances. Renovating the Gyeongui Line and constructing a shipbuilding complex are an expansion of the Kaesong joint economic development model to the whole of North Korea.

The South will have to lead the project, investing capital and technology while using the North’s labor force more substantially.

However, with the North trying to pose a threat to the South by taking the Kaesong complex hostage, no companies or business people will participate in the project.

North Korea should consider these factors in making its next move. The North should bear in mind that moves such as limiting passage to the Kaesong Industrial Complex will damage its credibility in the international community as well as with the United States.

For its part, the South Korean government should realize that the peaceful management of the national division is a primary task.

It should be poised to cope with related issues in an anticipative and comprehensive manner. In particular, there is no need for government officials to make careless remarks that will unnecessarily grate on the North.
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