Positive approach requiredIn a speech at the General Assembly of the United Nations on Wednesday, President Park Geun-hye allotted a considerable portion of her address to the reunification of the Korean Peninsula while also mentioning North Korean denuclearization and human rights issues. The president urged the international community to cooperate in breaking this last remaining wall of division. The president also expressed hopes for establishing a world peace park near the DMZ under the leadership of the UN. Her remarks translate into an official request to the world for reunification.
Easing heightened inter-Korean tensions and establishing the foundations for unification start with mutual exchanges and cooperation. Unless both sides share the same respect, initiatives can hardly take off. The Park administration must come up with more aggressive and practical measures than it has so far to thaw the deadlocked ties. In a forum held shortly after the president’s UN speech, Minister of Unification Ryoo Kihl-jae said the government is willing to put all issues on the table to improve inter-Korean relations, adding that if the North wants sanctions imposed by the Lee Myung-bak administration on May 24, 2010, to be lifted, it must first come to the negotiating table.
After the sanctions were levied to punish the North for destroying the Cheonan warship in 2010, all types of economic cooperation and human exchanges came to a halt except for South Korea’s investments in the Kaesong Industrial Complex. As a result, North Korea’s economy has been increasingly dependent on China. A limited diplomatic exchange between Pyongyang and Tokyo has also recently been made. If the Park government leaves the situation as it currently stands, we will be isolated. That’s why the government must find ways to break the ice and ease or lift the May 24 sanctions and resume tourism to Mount Kumgang, which was suspended after a North Korean security guard fatally shot a South Korean tourist in 2008.
North Korea designated 13 locations across the country as “special districts for economic development” last year and said it would welcome South Korean participation in developing an international tourism area between Wonsan and Mt. Kumgang. The role of the market economy is also growing in the secluded nation. Our government must reciprocate with some conciliatory actions. It’s the only approach that will pave the way for reunification and help the North to come out of its recluse. Projects such as the expansion of the Kaesong Industrial Complex can serve as a new frontier for our companies.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 26, Page 34