MB says China is good role model for Pyongyang

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MB says China is good role model for Pyongyang

HANOI - President Lee Myung-bak has encouraged North Korea to learn from China’s economic reforms and open up to improve its “ability to survive independently” in a recent media interview, the Blue House said.

The Financial Times yesterday published an interview with Lee in which the South Korean leader discussed inter-Korean issues as well as the global effort to fight economic crises.

While the FT largely summarized Lee’s remarks, the Blue House yesterday provided partial transcripts of Lee’s interview, made in Korean. The interview took place on Thursday in Seoul, before Lee left for Vietnam to attend a series of regional summits.

“I think it is desirable for North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to visit China more frequently,” Lee said. “China must show Kim that opening up the country and joining the international community will allow a country to have a far superior life.”

Lee said he has high expectations that the North could change after learning the Chinese model of economic reform, although the process may be slow and gradual. He also made clear that Seoul has no objection to Kim’s frequent trips to China.

“You can change more by seeing than listening,” Lee said.

This year alone, Kim has made two trips to China in May and August. During his trip in May, Kim visited major industrial sites and ports, including a stop in Dalian, a logistical center in northeast China. The city is seen as a possible model for development in the North.

“Instead of barely making ends meet through food aid year on year, North Korea must have the ability to survive on its own,” Lee was quoted as telling the FT. “South Korea and the international community must support the North to build up such abilities. The idea is the same as the development initiative in the G-20.”

Lee also said no signs of sudden changes have been seen in the North, even with a third-generation power succession going on in Pyongyang.

South Korea, however, is ready for any provocation by the North, he said, adding that he doesn’t think another war will take place on the Korean Peninsula, despite the increased tensions from the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March.

Asked about his view on the North’s future - whether it will fall even more deeply under Beijing’s political influence or suddenly collapse due to internal divisions - Lee said both scenarios were equally “unpalatable” for the South. The most desirable course would be gradual reform in the North, Lee was quoted as saying.

“For the unification that we want, the first step is permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Lee said. “And then, at almost the same time, we want to prosper together through economic cooperation. I believe a peaceful unification can be brought about after the second phase of economic cooperation.”

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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