[Letters] Soften approach on North Korea

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[Letters] Soften approach on North Korea

Numerous events in the past several months have generated great tension between the two sides of the division on the Korean Peninsula. Beginning with North Korea’s personal attacks on President Lee Myung-bak, calling him a “traitor”, various conflicts have developed, heightened by the death of a South Korean tourist during a trip to Mount Kumgang last July.

Recently, with North Korea’s launching of a rocket and with two Americans detained in the North for illegally entering the communist state, tension on the Korean Peninsula, for a time easing, is once more intensifying.

The editorial “Missile measures” [March 31] emphasizes the danger North Korea poses on the Korean Peninsula and asserts the need for stronger cooperation between South Korea and its close ally, the United States, in dealing with the North’s missile program, along with the possibility of development of long-range missiles and nuclear weapons by the South.

It is impossible not to worry about the claim that a military [buildup] should be undertaken to counter the North.

History shows that tensions have always worsened with drastic actions. The Lee Myung-bak administration’s hard-line attitude [compared to its predecessors], which has turned the two nations’ relations troublesome is a basic illustration of this. The suggestion that South Korea arm itself with nuclear weapons is not preferable.

A January 19 report on a study by the U.S. Congressional Research Service titled “Japan’s Nuclear Future: Policy Debate, Prospects, and U.S. Interests”, warns that it is very likely Japan would go nuclear if South Korea started developing its own nuclear arms. If this happens, there will be great instability in Northeast Asia, with the possibility of an arms race and even war.

What alternatives are there, other than a military build-up, to deter the North from threatening peace in Northeast Asia? Economic or diplomatic sanctions are some other options, but their imposition on other nations in the past has shown that it will only intensify tensions even further.

Instead of taking these drastic actions, more careful and softer moves involving economic and cultural exchanges with the North should be taken. The Kaesong Industrial Complex and tourism in Mount Kumgang are good examples. These exchanges have benefited both nations, while also improving their relations.

Deeper and broader exchanges across the divided Koreas’ cultures and economies, with a softer attitude on the North, will be necessary in ending this rising tension. Such is the way to bring peace and prosperity to the Korean Peninsula.

In addition, the South Korean Ministry of Unification, Ministry of Defense, and the American Department of Defense must strive to cooperate in achieving this.

Cho Yong-kyu, student, Gyeonggi Academy

of Foreign Languages
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