Report recommends government modify North Korea policy

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Report recommends government modify North Korea policy

A think tank under the National Intelligence Service (NIS) has recommended that the Park Geun-hye administration show flexibility in its North Korea policy, warning against the government’s adamant stance that there will be no breakthrough in inter-Korean ties without progress that ends with the dismantlement of Pyongyang’s nuclear programs.

The Institute for National Security Strategy made the recommendation in its latest report published on Monday, in which it urged the Park government to refrain from linking the North’s nuclear issue with other strategies aimed at improving inter-Korean relations.

“Maintaining consistency in strategic keynote and policy principles is important and necessary,” the report said. “However, being flexible in our policy does not mean altering the goal of our policy; [it] means selecting one of various routes.”

It added that if a goal was difficult to achieve using one particular methodology, then it was crucial to redirect that route to reflect the changing circumstances.

While strategic flexibility in resolving the nuclear crisis has been urged by experts in the past, it is rare for the NIS think tank to publish such advice.

Until now, the country’s main spy agency has overseen government policy toward the North with perhaps the most conservative of approaches.

“The National Intelligence Service took the first step in recommending a change in strategies,” a South Korean government official said. “This is noteworthy.”

The institute’s report comes as Park enters her third year in office. The two Koreas saw high-ranking contact in October when a delegation of top-tier North Korean officials visited prior to the close of the 2014 Asian Games, though no progress has been made since.

Experts have warned that relations between Seoul and Pyongyang could face a point of no return if they fail to make a breakthrough in the next six months.

“The Kim Jong-un regime has faced a dillemma between keeping its two-track policy of pursuing nuclear development and economic growth simultaneously and escaping from isolation from the international community,” the report said. “The North will likely be forced to make a bold decision.”

Academics have increasingly recommended that Seoul modify its North Korea policy by lifting economic sanctions and resuming tours to Mount Kumgang, which are currently suspended - suggestions that also appeared to be factored in to the report.

The paper also compared the South with a spindle that links two millstones - referring to the country’s alliance with the United States and its relationship with China - and urged the government to take a more active role in helping to stabilize the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia.

“For South Korea to play its role properly, its capabilities cannot be weak,” said Lee Soo-hyung, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Strategy who was also the main author of the report. “At the same time, it must be careful not to lean toward any one side.”

Meanwhile, in a survey on Sunday by the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University, 25 out of 44 domestic and international experts - more than half those polled - urged Seoul to initiate inter-Korean dialogue, provide humanitarian aid to the North and resume economic cooperation projects.

BY LEE YOUNG-JONG, SER MYO-JA [myoja@joongang.co.kr]




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