Unification preparation gears upWhile unveiling details for her three-year outline on economic innovation, President Park Geun-hye announced the launch of a preparatory committee for unification. The role of the new presidential committee will be to seek public opinions on unification to design a blueprint toward a unified Korea. The committee will include private experts in foreign, security, economic, social and cultural areas, as well as civilian representatives. The president followed up on her commitment to establish a lasting peace framework for the country after mentioning that unification would be a “windfall” for Korea as well as Northeast Asia.
Details on the role and characteristics of the committee will be revealed later, but what is noteworthy is Park’s comment that she will recruit a diverse range of people. Policy on North Korea and unification has so far been restricted to foreign, security and North Korean experts. The engagement of experts in economic, social, cultural and civilian fields raises expectations for a broad and comprehensive framework on post-unification.
The composition and scale of the committee would be important. The members should represent their specialized fields with no political affiliation so that discussions do not derail from the primary goal of unification and work toward building a vision that can win broad public support. With political independence, discussions on unification can be uninterrupted regardless of changes in the administration. Debate should be as diverse and wide as our views on North Korea. The committee should discuss ways to reunify and how to prepare for that goal. It should be bold and proactive, and design a road map as expansive and ambitious as the Marshall Plan, the American initiative that helped to rebuild postwar Europe - perhaps by proposing to reserve 1 percent of the budget to assist North Korea, depending on Pyongyang’s commitment to peace and denuclearization.
The preparatory committee must be unequivocal in its function and character. It could overlap with the National Unification Advisory Council, which is headed by the president. The council is a constitutional body designed to seek opinions and muster consensus from home and abroad. The committee is different from the NUAC, which was established with a presidential decree. The work of the preparatory committee must be specifically spelled out, or else it will become an umbrella body of the advisory council. Lines also must be drawn up with the Ministry of Unification. If the new committee is to fulfill its purpose, its direction and members must be carefully chosen.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 26, Page 30