Small, yet meaningful, proposalsPresident Park Geun-hye’s address marking the 69th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule was without the usual headline-making declarations. In a plain, discreet and calm tone, she nevertheless made some meaningful suggestions, including some specific projects the two Koreas can work on immediately.
The potential ventures with North Korea are part of her vision for a trust-building process to establish a lasting peace, as she announced in Dresden during her visit to Germany. Joint efforts to preserve and restore rivers, forests and habitat across the Korean Peninsula, rediscover and conserve cultural heritage and help improve living standards in North Korea through infrastructure aid projects are all necessary steps to prepare for the eventual reunion of the two Koreas.
But the overture will be wasted if Pyongyang rejects it. North Korea has long been critical of President Park’s Dresden Initiative, calling it a “plot to absorb the North into the South.” But Pyongyang does not lose any face by joining hands with Seoul on issues of environment, aid for living conditions and cultural exchanges. North Korea must send a delegation to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity that will be held in Pyeongchang, Gangwon, in October and also start discussing joint cultural events for the 70th anniversary of Korea’s independence next year.
The nuclear problem still lies at the heart of the inter-Korean relationship, but it is not an issue that can be solved overnight. Yet inter-Korean ties cannot be left in deadlock forever. Pyongyang has to reply to Seoul’s proposal to hold high-level talks on Tuesday. Yet North Korea has continued to test-fire multiple rockets even as Pope Francis arrived in Seoul to spread the message of peace. It must stop such hostility and provocation.
Also in the address, President Park repeated a call for Tokyo to be proactive in resolving the comfort women issue to ameliorate the frozen ties, albeit in a less critical tone. If Japan takes meaningful steps to solve the thorny issue, the two countries can truly celebrate the 50th anniversary of normalization of diplomatic ties next year.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 16, Page 26