It all begins with dialogueThe presidential committee for unification preparation has been launched to embody President Park Geun-hye’s proposition of unification as a “jackpot” and her Dresden initiative. The Blue House said the new body will help establish a foundation to achieve the Korean Peninsula’s peaceful unification.
The structure of the committee suggests the government is making painstaking efforts to achieve the goal. The committee, chaired by Park, comprises 20 members from the government and 30 civilians. Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae and former Ambassador to China Chung Chong-wook serve as vice chairmen representing the public and private sectors, respectively. Civilian members of the four subcommittees - diplomacy and security, economy, society and culture, and political law and systems - will help gain results based on expertise.
What attracts our attention is the president’s decision to invite liberal figures from previous administrations. As unification is a long process, sustainability is crucial. We appreciate the government’s efforts to reflect the various perspectives of society. Park’s decision to include policy committee chairmen of both ruling and opposition parties is also commendable given a strong need to promote communication with the legislature and foster bipartisan cooperation for unification. But there are concerns. The committee may be engaged in exhibitionist activities without substance, as it is very large. The huge size of the advisory groups - there are 120 civic groups and a myriad of advisors on unification education, for instance - makes us doubt there can be an efficient discussion. How its role can differ from that of the National Unification Advisory Council, another presidential consultation body on the issue, is also a dilemma.
A larger issue is inter-Korean relations. Despite the need to prepare for unification on our own, cooperation with North Korea is essential. Park’s Dresden initiative - which includes construction of infrastructure in North Korea, humanitarian aid and other exchanges - cannot proceed without Pyongyang’s consent. North Korea vehemently attacks President Park’s plans by branding them a “plot to absorb the North into the South.” As unification is an arduous process, it must be achieved peacefully, and it all depends on a first step: dialogue and cooperation.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 16, Page 34