Sunshine Policy scrap between two DP bigwigsAn intense debate over the future of the liberal Sunshine Policy is raging inside the Democratic Party as its two heavyweights express polar opposite views on the strategy of engaging North Korea.
The debate began when Chairman Sohn Hak-kyu expressed skepticism about the Sunshine Policy’s effectiveness late last month. “I believe in an engagement policy toward the North, but the Sunshine Policy is not a panacea,” Sohn said at a forum hosted by the Korea Broadcasting Journalists Club on Nov. 30 in the aftermath of North Korea’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. “The Sunshine Policy is just a means to achieve peace, but not a necessary and sufficient means.”
At a symposium hosted by the East Asia Future Foundation on Tuesday, Sohn ratcheted up his skepticism. “Amidst the post-cold war thaw in the 1990s, the two Koreas adopted the June 15 declaration in 2000 and the Oct. 4 declaration in 2007,” Sohn said. “But today, it has been proven that no new stable system was established in Northeast Asia through the two agreements.”
The inter-Korean declarations were adopted after two South Korean presidents, both liberals, held summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang. In 2000, President Kim Dae-jung, the founder of Sunshine policy, met with Kim in the first historic summit. His successor Roh Moo-hyun met with the North Korean leader in 2007.
Sohn said that in light of the security crisis on the Korean Peninsula, it’s time for the liberals to find a new path of change for inter-Korean relations.
Another DP leader, Chung Dong-young, made clear yesterday that the Sunshine Policy must be upheld at all costs. “If we had continued implementing the June 15 and Oct 4 declarations, there would have been no attack on Yeonpyeong Island and the Korean Peninsula would have been on track toward peace,” Chung said in an interview with PBS radio.
“The two declarations are not about Northeast Asia, but an agreement between the two Korean leaders on how to achieve peace on the peninsula and how to unify the two Koreas peacefully,” Chung said. “They state what we should do after we win the next presidential election [in 2012]. But if they are dubbed unstable and wrong, where do we go from here?”
Chung attacked Sohn for having doubts about the Sunshine Policy. “It is the identity and root of the Democratic Party,” Chung said. “If he denies or dismisses it, then he is in denial of the Democratic Party too.”
Sohn and Chung have had an intense rivalry ever since Sohn joined the opposition camp in 2007. Chung, who served as the Roh administration’s unification minister, was the DP’s presidential candidate in the 2007 election and promotes himself as bearer of the liberal presidents’ legacy, including the Sunshine Policy.
Sohn served as Gyeonggi governor from 2002 to 2006 as a member of the conservative Grand National Party but defected to the the DP in 2007 to protest what he called an “unfair” presidential primary.
Sohn contested the presidential primary of the DP, but lost to Chung. The Sunshine Policy is often criticized by conservatives for keeping the North Korean regime alive.
By Ser Myo-ja [firstname.lastname@example.org]