Aid and resolveChristian community leaders, both conservative and progressive, have released their March 1 declaration for peace and reunification, urging the government to use 1 percent of the state budget for humanitarian aid to North Korea. They added they would try to use 1 percent of their churches’ budgets for the reunification of the Korean Peninsula.
We welcome the timely declaration, issued when inter?Korean relations have grown very tense. Since 2001, the JoongAng Ilbo has actively promoted a campaign to provide North Korea with 1 percent of our state budget, a move that has received wide support from various fields. Last year, the Jungto Society, a Buddhist organization led by the Venerable Beomnyun, collected signatures from 1 million people in support of the campaign.
Supporting the North with 1 percent of our state budget has both symbolic and practical meanings. The campaign delivers the message that South Koreans need to help North Koreans suffering from hunger and poverty. It also implies that we need to protect the Korean Peninsula and establish a foundation for reunification.
For these purposes, it is appropriate to use 1 percent of our state budget to provide such aid to the North. For the government to do so, it is imperative that the administration establish concrete goals for its North Korea policy. The government must make more of an effort to develop detailed measures to carry out the policy, and it must persuade South Koreans to support the policy.
Considering all these, if a policy to provide 1 percent of our state budget to the North is approved, both South Korea and North Korea can realize that our wish for peace and reunification are not just empty words. The policy will reveal our strong dedication not only to close partners like the United States, Japan, China and Russia but also to the entire world.
Some might be skeptical about this argument as inter?Korean ties cool and North Korea uses brinkmanship once again. But we need to broaden our perspective. We need to make a strong resolution to break through the political, economic, social, cultural and ideological barriers that separate us.
In condemning the South Korean government, Pyongyang is insulting all South Koreans. Military threats against South Korea are nothing but an unrealistic illusion when you compare the differences in power between the North and the South.
North Korea must immediately come back to the table so we can resume talks on reconciliation and cooperation.