[Letters] Kim Dae-jung’s faulty memory

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[Letters] Kim Dae-jung’s faulty memory

Recently the JoongAng Daily ran an interview with former Korean President Kim Dae-jung. In it, “DJ” expressed his views regarding the current North Korean situation. While I shall endeavor to take a respectful tone, owing to his advanced age and previous position, I would like to strongly object to many of his premises.

DJ is most noted for his 2000 inter-Korean summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, and while that was a momentous first, let’s not forget that it was only partially related to his effort.

North Korea had previously agreed to a presidential-level meeting with an earlier administration, but that had to be shelved due to the passing of Kim Il Sung. So DJ’s accomplishment in this area was not in breaking new ground, but rather in adding the stigma of slush funds to the whole escapade.

Additionally, DJ made mention about a perceived peace that has been on the peninsula for the past 10 years (I am presuming that he is meaning during his and the late President Roh Moo-hyun’s presidential terms). I am curious if the families of the fallen soldiers that died in the naval clash of 2002 feel the same way. Have their lives been peaceful? Both he and Roh shared the same selective amnesia when viewing the sacrifices our soldiers have made defending this republic.

DJ continued his errors of selective memory when he mentioned the success of the Kaesong Industrial Complex project. He stated that “we are making money on North Korean territory.” In fact, the last time records were released, very few companies were making money in the North. The vast majority of businesses that invested in Kaesong were losing money. I’ll forgive the former president this oversight, as it is well known that he does not have any actual business experience.

Kim also seemed determined to lay the blame for the current situation squarely at the feet of President Lee Myung-bak and former U.S. President George W. Bush, while forgetting the very obvious lesson at hand: North Korea does what it wants, when it wants.

South Korean presidents since Park Chung Hee have called on the North for direct talks, but they have only occurred when North Korea wanted them. Looking back at all of the North’s provocations - whether they were overt (such as the 2002 naval battle, or the attempt on Park’s life in 1968), covert (the bombing of Korean Air Flight 858), or potentially cataclysmic (the recent missile launch and nuclear tests) - they all happened at the North’s choosing.

DJ might be loath to admit it, but neither he, nor any other South Korean leader, really has any say over how the North behaves.

It’s time to place the blame where it belongs: on the doorstep of the North Korean monarchy.

Ed Foychuk, business consultant, Seoul
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