Door is open to North, Park says

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Door is open to North, Park says

President Park Geun-hye enunciated her vision of a peaceful Korean unification in a speech at the Dresden University of Technology in Germany. In what will likely to be referred to as her “Dresden declaration,” the president proposed to establish a permanent joint entity with Pyongyang to coordinate inter-Korean exchanges to ensure incremental, comprehensive and uninterrupted flow of cooperation and exchanges between the two Koreas. Her elaboration on North Korea policy comes after she referred to Korean unification as a “jackpot” in her New Year’s address. There was no better place to address unification than Dresden, once a poverty-stricken city in East Germany that is now the center of European culture, education and business.

The president said four barriers should be removed in order to realize her vision of a peaceful union. The two Koreas must jointly work toward easing military tensions and conflict, build mutual confidence, narrow cultural and social gaps, and bring North Korea closer to the international community. She said unification does not simply mean oneness in geography and regime, a point aimed at easing Pyongyang’s suspicions about Seoul’s designs to integrate the North into the South. She also highlighted the significance of practical cooperation through exchanges.

In order to revive and institutionalize inter-Korean exchanges, she suggested a permanent framework of humanitarian aid for North Korean mothers and infants and regular reunions for separated families. She also proposed an economic agenda for co-prosperity. South Korea could build a joint-venture farming park in North Korea. The scale of economic joint ventures would increase as the two Koreas build trust. She said South Korea could develop the infrastructure for transportation, telecommunications and natural resources in North Korea. She also suggested a partnership and exchanges in history, culture, the arts and sports to restore a sense of community and ethnic unity.

The president, however, did not say that Seoul would lift the broad economic sanctions in the aftermath of the Cheonan attack, a silent rebuke against North Korea’s missile tests in recent weeks and no progress in denuclearization. She wants international participation to ensure continuity and safety in inter-Korean ventures; then Seoul may be ready for more vigorous cooperation.

The ball is now in North Korea’s court. An inter-Korean exchange office could pave the way. New opportunities await if Pyongyang accepts Seoul’s proposal.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 29, Page 30

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