Changed policy toward unificationPresident Park Geun-hye is increasingly talking about unification after her summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping as a part of the trip to China to mark the Sept. 3 Victory Day. Her tone is also very strong. North Korea has almost no intention to give up its nuclear programs. Based on this understanding, Park started saying that “the ultimate and the fastest way to resolve the nuclear issue is a peaceful unification.”
Many people who are interested in the nuclear issue are surprised by her remark. Resolving the nuclear crisis with unification is an astonishing idea of reversing the policy so far that denuclearization is the precondition to unification.
When the two Koreas are peacefully united, the nuclear crisis, of course, will be resolved. But Park failed to say “how.” It is utopian thinking that heaven will be just across the river and also repetition of the same words.
She appeared to be expressing her determination to pressure the North for unification from now on while at the same time aggressively promoting unification diplomacy to the Northeast Asian neighbors and countries that have an interest in the Korean Peninsula. It is curious what motivated her to reverse the order of resolving the nuclear crisis and unification to actively promote unification diplomacy.
The statement, announced by the Blue House after Park’s summit and luncheon with Xi, has no answer. China’s position was stated that “it supported peaceful unification of the Korean Peninsula by the Korean people in the future.”
In fact, the expressions, “in the future” and “by the Korean people” are more intriguing. In this short sentence, China reflected the view that unification will come at some point in the future and be realized by joint efforts of the two Koreas.
There could have been an in-depth dialogue between Park and Xi that has not been made public. But no matter how bad the North Korea-China relations are right now, there was no chance that China supported and encouraged the South’s forceful unification. And the South has no such power.
How will peaceful unification be achieved? There was no vision or strategy presented, and words about unification are rampant. President Park reportedly told her aides more frequently in recent days that they must prepare for unification.
In a recent meeting of the Presidential Committee for Unification Preparation, Park also made the same request, even saying that the South should be ready “if unification comes next year,” a participant of the meeting said. A senior policymaker of the Park administration stressed that North Korea’s collapse is not the precondition for her unification policy. It is important that that is true.
Park appeared to see the Aug. 25 agreement of the high-level government talks between the two Koreas after the North’s land mine provocation as a victory for the South, and it gives the impression that her confidence in North Korea policy was boosted by that. A small accomplishment can bring about hubris. We must be alert about the curse of a success.
If the recent agreement is a victory, it is a victory of both Koreas. North Korea, as we can easily expect, is criticizing Park’s frequent remarks on unification. The Aug. 25 agreement is a great accomplishment and the separated family reunions will take place as a result. But the agreement must serve as a new starting point for inter-Korean relations, going beyond the reunions. To this end, we must not provoke the North unnecessarily.
Some media use “Park Geun-hye doctrine” for the North Korea and Northeast Asia policies of the government after her visit to China. For a doctrine to live up to its name, it must be a grand shift of a policy concerning a whole continent and govern the lives of the many countries in the region, such as the Monroe Doctrine, Brezhnev Doctrine and Nixon Doctrine.
What Park presented to the people, however, is a North Korea policy with a changed emphasis. A new concept in Park’s remarks after her visit to China, in fact, is an emphasis of cooperation in Northeast Asia. It is a repetition of the proposal of the Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Organization, but it is still a more sensible concept which took into account the unreality of the argument that unification can be achieved by the Korean people on their own and the reality that unification is only possible when the two Koreas and the four superpowers work together for it.
In the case of Germany, Willy Brandt started with the idea that German unification began from Moscow. He accepted the fact that unification was impossible against the will of the Soviet Union and without its cooperation. The Soviet Union, at the time, maintained 20 to 22 divisions of troops in East Germany, and it had the ability to oppress a people’s revolution with tanks at any time. On the Korean Peninsula, however, there is no “Moscow” that controls the key to unification.
Where will our unification start? It will start from Seoul and Pyongyang and be complete with the support and cooperation of the United States, China, Russia and Japan. The first step, therefore, is developing the Aug. 25 agreement to a grand path of improved relations and cooperation.
To this end, using the term “unification” must be used with refrain only in the need for domestic politics. North Korea thinks unification talk by the South means the South’s absorbing of the North. Unification that the North talks about, of course, is a communist unification. Even if there can be a convergence between our concept of unification under liberal democracy and market economy and the North’s concept of unification, it will require a long process of peace.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 11, Page 30
*The author is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Young-hie