[Viewpoint] The most dangerous rival in history

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[Viewpoint] The most dangerous rival in history

The fate of the Korean Peninsula hung on the presidential election in 1971. Then President Park Chung Hee was campaigning at full speed for his third term, while Kim Dae-jung beat Kim Young-sam to become the presidential candidate of the opposition party.

North Korea policy was an important issue. Kim Dae-jung pledged that he would stop calling reservists to serve as a homeland defense force. His explanation was, “Unifying the people through democracy will deter infiltration by North Korean guerrillas better than the reserve army can.”

Park Chung Hee was greatly disappointed in Kim’s viewpoint and believed that the country would be in danger if he came to power. During the election, Park declared that he was running not against the opposition party candidate, but Kim Il Sung himself.

The presidents of the Republic of Korea have all had their archrivals. Park Chung Hee kept Kim Dae-jung and Kim Young-sam under the thumb of the military dictatorship while he dealt with Kim Il Sung.

But there was a wave of detente across the world in 1971 and 1972. United States President Richard Nixon went to China, and Chancellor Willy Brandt of West Germany promoted improvements in relations with East Germany, Poland and the Soviet Union.

Park Chung Hee sent an emissary to Kim Il Sung in 1972, too. But Lee Hu-rak, director of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, went to Pyongyang with cyanide in his jacket pocket. The July 4 South-North Joint Communique was the origin of the reconciliation and cooperation policy.

The dialogue did not last long. The North Korean delegates, who were still fiercely loyal to their Communist system, attacked the anti-communist policy of the South.

In the end, North Korea cut off talks with the South in August 1973, when the South Korean spy agency kidnapped Kim Dae-jung. Park Chung Hee also gave up on talks and concentrated his efforts on winning the competition between the economic systems of the North and the South. He believed that creating national power through economic development was a shortcut to peaceful reunification.

While promoting a robust domestic defense industry, Park Chung Hee ruled the country under a developmental dictatorship. While Park died in 1979, Kim Il Sung survived. However, South Korea’s economic power had overtaken that of North Korea.

In the 1980s, Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae-woo, former security officers of Park Chung Hee, succeeded him in power and spirit. Despite a terrorist attack by North Korean agents that killed several Seoul officials during a state visit in Burma, Chun Doo Hwan sent Chang Se-dong, director of the National Intelligence Service, to Pyongyang.

However, there was no progress in inter-Korean relations. Eventually, Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung became Chun Doo Hwan’s primary political rivals - not Kim Il Sung. Chun Doo Hwan, who had to fight the two Kims tooth and nail during his term, was forced to exile in Baekdam Temple right after stepping down and was later sent to prison by Kim Young-sam.

Roh Tae-woo, with his active Northern Policy, put many of his cards on the table with Kim Il Sung. Several rounds of inter-Korean prime ministers’ talks were held, and the Basic Agreement between the South and the North was signed.

However, Roh’s rival was not Kim Il Sung either. Roh Tae-woo had a hard time with Kim Young-sam, who pressed Roh hard to designate him as his “successor.”

At the beginning of his term, President Kim Young-sam’s rival was Kim Il Sung. However, Kim Il Sung died just before a scheduled summit meeting with Kim. His son, Kim Jong-il, should have been Kim Young-sam’s new rival, but the new North Korean leader ignored Kim and only talked to the U.S. administration of Bill Clinton. At home, Kim Dae-jung made his third run for the presidency. Kim Young-sam did not like it very much, but his erstwhile ally ended up being his final rival.

After being elected as president, Kim Dae-jung did not consider his predecessor or Kim Jong-il as rivals. Instead, he competed for the Nobel Peace Prize. Kim Dae-jung called North Korea a “wounded animal,” arguing that because of that South Korea had to understand the abnormal situation in the North and bandage its wounds with the Sunshine Policy.

However, even too much sunshine can be a bad thing. South Korea had to suffer the wounds of an ideological divide because we tried to take care of not only the North’s wounds but also almost everything, even its toenails. The Sunshine Policy had changed. It was little more than flickering candlelight by the time Roh Moo-hyun was elected as Kim’s successor.

So who is the archrival of President Lee Myung-bak? Who should it be? Park Geun-hye? No. Lee is the president who must care for 48.5 million people. He has to embrace Park Geun-hye and go beyond her.

Lee should lead a historical fight against Kim Jong-il. The wounded animal, North Korea, is growling more angrily at the edge of the cliff. But to North Korea, Lee and his diplomatic and security team have been awkward trainers. North Korea rejected President Lee’s policy of “Denuclearization, Openness, 3000.”

The trainers were haughty at first. They said they would get rid of the Ministry of Unification and struck with the whip, saying there was something wrong with Roh Moo-hyun’s Oct. 4 declaration.

But Lee is now at a loss thanks to the North’s sharp teeth. Kim Jong-il is not the late Hyundai Group Chairman Chung Ju-yung, a royal prince from the Middle East or a salesman on Cheonggye Stream. He is a beast Lee has never seen before. Will he tame Kim Jong-il, or will Kim tame Lee?

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Jin
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