Rush to ratification

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Rush to ratification

The government submitted a motion to the National Assembly on Tuesday for ratification of the April 27 Panmunjom Declaration between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. But division over a motion mostly aimed at helping upgrade North Korea’s archaic infrastructure is getting sharper between the ruling Democratic Party and opposition parties. The ruling party insists on passing the motion to sustain peace on the Korean Peninsula through the legislature. But the Liberty Korea Party and the Bareunmirae Party — both conservative forces on security issues — denounced it for a critical lack of thorough thought on the scale and cost of projects with North Korea.

The opposition camp is criticizing the government for pushing inter-Korean projects in a unilateral way. The motion submitted calls for a 298.6 billion won ($264.6 million) budget for next year earmarked for such projects as renovating old railways and roads as well as cooperation to plant trees on bare mountains across the North. If you add a 172.6 billion won budget already allotted for this year’s inter-Korean projects, it amounts to a whopping 471.2 billion won.

The opposition’s resistance to the motion mostly stems from the administration’s high-handed stance towards the legislature. For instance, opposition parties have not been given a detailed account of the Panmunjom Declaration from the government since both leaders met four months ago. The declaration itself is devoid of concrete clauses or detailed explanations on inter-Korean projects that might force Pyongyang to take a path toward denuclearization.

It is doubtful if an ambiguous declaration without any specifics really constitutes a subject for legislative approval. Another question also remains: the National Assembly usually approves the administration’s deals with other nations, but our Constitution does not define North Korea as a state. Therefore, ratification of the declaration could violate the Constitution. Even if our National Assembly ratifies it, it is doubtful North Korea’s legislature will do the same.

If Pyongyang changes its mind and starts to implement denuclearization, inter-Korean exchanges will grow even further. In that case, South Korea must make investments in North Korea of great size. As the money should come from our people’s taxes, the government must explain and seek the legislature’s understanding before doing anything. North Korea has not budged an inch on the denuclearization front. Under such circumstances, the government’s push for ratification raises alarms.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 13, Page 34
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