Published : 2013-08-16 20:07
Updated : 2013-08-16 20:07
One day after the two Koreas agreed to normalize the disrupted operation of the Gaeseong industrial park, President Park Geun-hye proposed two projects to the North to get the inter-Korean trust-building process rolling.
In her Aug. 15 Liberation Day speech, Park suggested that the two Koreas arrange reunions of separated families in the South and the North around the upcoming Chuseok holiday, which falls on Sept. 19 this year.
She also formally proposed to the North the establishment of an international peace park in the Demilitarized Zone, a vision she first brought up during her presidential campaign.
The two projects, if accepted by the North, will add momentum to the trust-building process between the two Koreas, which got off to a good start when the two sides agreed Wednesday to reopen the joint industrial park after a 133-day stoppage.
The five-point agreement is not just about simply restarting the stalled factory complex. It embodies Park’s “trustpolitik,” a policy aimed at resetting inter-Korean relations based on mutual trust.
As mutual trust grows between two sides when they behave in a predictable and rational way, the Seoul government went to great lengths to make common sense and international norms the guiding principles in managing the industrial park.
The South prevented the North from halting the complex unilaterally again by introducing a new arrangement under which the two sides would jointly manage it in a fashion modeled after the China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park in China.
Seoul also successfully persuaded Pyongyang to introduce international business standards to companies in Gaeseong and promote the internationalization of the complex by inviting foreign investors.
The agreement on Gaeseong is thus the result of Seoul’s determined efforts to normalize inter-Korean relations by remedying the abnormal practices of the past and building mutual trust.
Now that the trust-building process has been set in motion, the two sides need to keep up the momentum. In this regard, the North should embrace Park’s new proposals without hesitation.
Pyongyang probably has no problem arranging reunions of separated families, given that it proposed last month talks on holding such reunions and resuming the suspended Mount Geumgangsan tour programs.
The North retracted the offer as the South only welcomed the family get-together proposal.
In consideration of the sufferings of divided families, the two sides should now organize reunions on a regular basis, preferably starting with the proposed Chuseok meetings.
Regarding the Mount Geumgangsan tours, Seoul’s stance is that the North should first apologize for the shooting death of a South Korean tourist by North Korean soldiers in 2008 and come up with measures to prevent any recurrence of such a disaster.
If the North wants to have the tour project resumed, it needs to accommodate the South’s commonsensical demands.
Park’s peace park project would, if realized, significantly ease tension on the Korean Peninsula. Contrary to its name, the Demilitarized Zone is in fact the most heavily militarized border in the world.
The North is apparently not opposed to the idea in light of a recent comment on it by Kim Yang-gon, Pyongyang’s point man on inter-Korean relations. He was quoted as saying that the peace park plan would depend on the success of the Gaeseong industrial complex. Now that an agreement has been made on Gaeseong, the two sides can discuss the peace park.