Candidates appoint foreign affairs advisers
With the presidential election 75 days away, three major candidates have recently appointed their foreign affairs and security advisers who will be responsible for setting directions of related policies, including North Korean affairs.
Based on the list of names of foreign policy experts that have been recruited by each of the election campaign teams of Park Geun-hye from the ruling Saenuri Party, Moon Jae-in from the major opposition Democratic United Party and liberal independent Ahn Cheol-soo, the possibility is high that regardless of who gets elected, the next government will carry out more flexible policies on North Korean affairs than incumbent President Lee Myung-bak.
Park, Moon and Ahn, the three major presidential candidates, have all previously expressed the need for a change in North Korean policy affairs from the current government.
Reflecting their willingness for a different approach in dealing with the communist state, many of the foreign affairs and security advisers recruited by each of the three presidential candidates’ campaign teams have previously participated in promoting an engagement policy toward the North during the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations.
Park’s election campaign team is one of the three with a full lineup of foreign affairs and security advisers. There are some 20 officials dealing with foreign affairs and unification policies and some 20 others handling national defense.
The head of the foreign affairs and unification team is Yun Byung-se, former senior presidential secretary for foreign, security and unification policy.
Before joining the Blue House, Yun also served as deputy foreign minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The head of the national defense team is Kim Jang-soo, former defense minister. Both Yun and Kim were high-level government officials during the Roh government.
“The other two presidential candidates [Moon and Ahn] concentrate mainly on carrying out North Korean affairs but our [Park’s] camp is different in that we make an integrated approach to external policy and North Korean affairs,” Yun said. “The basic approach to foreign affairs and security policies of Park’s camp is devising measures to promote more flexibility in dealing with North Korea and maintaining a steady Korea-United States alliance.”
“We [Park’s camp] have a flexible stance in lifting the May 24 Measures [that were introduced by the South Korean government in 2010 to pressure the North after the sinking of the Cheonan warship],” said Kil Jeong-woo, a ruling party lawmaker who is on Park’s foreign affairs and security team. “We are also aware of the importance of the Korea-U.S. alliance and also of developing a more strengthened relationship with China.”
Foreign policy and security officials who have been recruited by Moon’s campaign team share a common past of having worked for the Roh government. Moon, a former presidential staff member for Roh, has appealed to experienced officials who played critical roles in the Kim Dae-jung and Roh administrations, including former politician Lim Dong-won who was adviser to former President Kim and the chief negotiator with North Korea that led two South-North Summits, Kim Man-bok, former head of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and Suh Hoon, former NIS deputy director for North Korean intelligence.
The main theorist of Moon’s campaign team regarding foreign affairs and security is political science professor Moon Chung-in of Yonsei University. Moon worked as chairman of the Presidential Committee on the Northeast Asia Cooperation Initiative during the Roh government.
“Presidential candidate Moon has thoughts on alternately promoting policies to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue and improve South-North relations,” the professor said. “If there is improvement in the South-North relationship, there will be progress in the relations between South Korea and the U.S. as well as South Korea and China. South Korea will no longer have to choose between the U.S. and China.”
There are also officials in Moon’s camp that were participants in the previous Sunshine Policy, including three former unification ministers of the Roh government: Lee Jong-seok, Lee Jae-joung and Chung Dong-young. The campaign team also includes Jeong Se-hyun, former Unification Minister, Lee Soo-hoon, former chairman of the Presidential Committee on Northeast Asia Cooperation Initiative and Baek Jong-cheon, former Blue House secretary for security affairs.
“We will succeed the Sunshine Policy but at the same time redress criticisms raised from conservatives that the policy is only one-sided,” said an official from Moon’s camp.
As for Ahn’s campaign team, there is a mixture of officials who are progressive North Korean experts and foreign affairs and security experts who are centrists. Critics, however, note that officials recruited by Ahn’s election preparation team vary in terms of ideology and therefore need to be coordinated.
Officials that suggest embracing the North have been recruited by the campaign team and so far they include Paik Hak-soon, senior research fellow at Sejong Institute, Professor Kim Keun-sik of Kyungnam University and Professor Kim Yeon-chul of Inje University.
By Lee Young-jong, Lee Eun-joo [firstname.lastname@example.org]