Lee again makes offer of dialogue with North

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Lee again makes offer of dialogue with North

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President Lee Myung-bak marks March 1st Independence Movement Day yesterday at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts. By Ahn Seong-sik

President Lee Myung-bak yesterday made yet another offer to North Korea for dialogue, while urging Pyongyang to take responsibility for its hostile attacks on the South and stop weapons development in return for Seoul’s economic assistance.

In his speech to mark the 92nd anniversary of South Korea’s March 1st Independence Movement against Japanese colonial rule, Lee also urged Japan to live up to its leader’s statement from last year, through which the country offered its first direct, official apology for its colonial rule of Korea.

“In the 21st century, when nations are pursuing globalization, leaving behind the legacy of the Cold War, the remnants of the 20th century should be cleared away. We urge North Korea to join the new wave of peace and common prosperity in Northeast Asia as well,” Lee said. “There is no reason for South Korea not to help our compatriots in the North when it is helping many other countries.”

Lee said Pyongyang must stop its nuclear and missile development and assume responsibility for its armed provocations to return to the path of genuine reconciliation and cooperation. Last year, North Korea staged two deadly attacks on the South - the sinking of the Cheonan and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. While the North admitted to the shelling, it has denied its involvement in the sinking of the warship.

“Now is the opportune time to open a new kind of future on the Korean Peninsula,” Lee said, reiterating Seoul’s position that it “is ready to engage in dialogue with the North anytime with an open mind.”

Lee also said the South will continue to work with the international community toward unification of the two Koreas, “while at the same time actively bolstering our capacity to deal with eventual unification.”

A senior Blue House official said Lee showed more flexibility to the North when he made the offer for dialogue. “The conditions [the North] must meet before the talks are unchanged, but we were expressing higher willingness for dialogues,” the official said. An apology from the North for last year’s provocations have been a precondition for talks.

“The North had proposed talks, but the recent dialogues fell apart with no progress,” the official said. “But the president was reminding the North that the South has not closed the door on talks.”

Reminding Japan of its earlier apology, Lee also said, “Now is the high time for Japan to behave and act in a genuine manner in line with the remarks that Prime Minister Naoto Kan made in a special statement last year. In this way, the two countries will be able to move forward together into the future instead of dwelling on the past.”

Marking the 100th anniversary of the annexation treaty, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced the apology, endorsed by the cabinet led by his centrist Democratic Party, on Aug. 10.

He also promised to return Korean cultural assets that had been moved to Japan during the colonial rule to show Japan’s commitment to building a future-oriented bilateral relationship.

Based on the statement, the two countries signed a treaty in November to confirm the return of 1,205 Korean royal books - including the Uigwe - taken during Japan’s colonial rule and kept at the Imperial Household Agency. The Uigwe is a collection of documents containing information and illustrations on Joseon Dynasty royal customs.

While Kan said he would do his best to get the Diet’s approval of the treaty, no progress has been made yet. No approval is required by Korea’s National Assembly.

The Blue House refrained from elaborating what actions Japan should take.


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

Related Korean Article[중앙일보]

3·1절 기념사 ‘같은 민족’ 강조

이명박 대통령은 3·1절 기념사에서 북한에 대해 열린 자세를 강조했다. 그러면서 유화적인 표현을 많이 썼다. “언제든 열린 마음으로 대화할 준비가 돼 있다” “같은 민족인 북한을 돕지 못할 이유가 없다”는 등의 말이 그 예다.

 그렇다고 이 대통령이 대북 대화의 전제조건을 없앤 건 아니다. 그는 그간 ‘북한의 진정한 변화가 우선적으로 이뤄져야 한다’는 점을 강조해 왔다. 1일에도 ‘북한의 무력도발에 대한 책임 있는 행동’을 강조했다. “우리 민족만 역사의 흐름에 낙후돼 어두웠던 과거를 반복해선 안 된다”며 북한이 국제사회로 복귀하는 선택을 하길 바란다는 취지의 얘기도 했다.

 하지만 ‘북한의 진정한 변화’를 요구하는 강도는 전에 비해 낮아졌다. 청와대 측도 이 점을 인정했다. 이 대통령은 이날 천안함 사건이나 연평도 포격도발에 대해 구체적으로 언급하지 않았다. 북한이 사과해야 하고, 재발 방지 약속을 해야 한다는 말도 하지 않았다. ‘무력도발에 대한 책임 있는 행동’을 촉구하는 선에서 그쳤다. 이는 지난해 8월의 광복절 경축사 내용과 사뭇 다르다. 당시 이 대통령은 “천안함 공격은 평화에 대한 여망을 저버리는 도발이었다”며 “더 이상 어떠한 도발도 용납하지 않을 것”이라고 했다.

 3·1절 기념사의 어조가 그때와 달라진 것과 관련해 청와대 핵심 참모는 “북한에서 실무적으로 대화공세를 폈으나 그마저도 결렬된 상황에서 우리는 여전히 대화의 문을 열어두고 있다는 점을 대통령이 확인해준 측면이 있다”며 “대통령이 북한과 대화하겠다는 의지를 좀 더 전향적으로 밝힌 것”이라고 설명했다. 청와대의 다른 관계자는 “북한이 이 대통령의 뜻을 읽고 보다 적극적인 대화 노력을 기울이길 바란다”고 말했다.


 과거사 청산 문제와 관련해 이 대통령은 일본 정부에 ‘진정성 있는 행동과 실천’을 촉구했다. 특히 이 대통령은 간 나오토(菅直人) 총리가 지난해 담화를 통해 ▶사할린 동포 지원 ▶징용 피해자 유골 반환 등을 약속한 걸 환기시키면서 일본 정부의 후속조치가 이행되길 바란다는 취지의 얘기를 했다.

 이 대통령은 ‘세계주의’를 강조하면서 ‘G20세대’의 활약을 주문하기도 했다. ‘G20세대’는 주요 20개국(G20) 정상회의를 개최할 만큼 높아진 한국의 국제적 위상에 걸맞게 세계 무대에서 활약 중인 젊은 세대를 가리키는 신조어다. 이 대통령은 “G20세대는 성숙한 세계시민”이라며 “선진일류국가의 미래를 개척할 대한민국의 희망”이라고 말했다.

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