Published : 2013-09-26 20:20
Updated : 2013-09-26 20:20
It was natural that the trust-building process was highlighted in the basic plan unveiled Wednesday for managing relations between South and North Korea for the coming five years. The plan, released by a commission affiliated with Seoul’s Unification Ministry, will guide policies toward the North during the term of President Park Geun-hye. It seeks to achieve “a small form of unity” in various fields such as the economy through the process to lay the foundations for the eventual reunification of the two Koreas.
During her election campaign last year, Park put forward the process of building confidence on the Korean Peninsula as her key principle for handling inter-Korean relations. It mixes a flexible attitude to dialogue with a strong posture against provocations.
There had been some expectation that the 25-member commission comprised of government officials and private experts would use this approach as the main framework for drawing up the plan. Likewise, it was nothing unexpected for the plan to exclude initiatives proposed by the late liberal President Roh Moo-hyun to create a cooperative zone near the maritime border with the North in the West Sea and push for a peace regime to replace the truce accord that ended the Korean War in 1953. The proposals were a key part of the previous plan on inter-Korean relations that was set up in November 2007, when Roh was in office.
Under a law enacted in 2005, the plan is to be redrawn every five years. Conservative President Lee Myung-bak, who succeeded Roh in 2008, dumped his predecessor’s policies toward the North but failed to complete the work to draw up a second plan by the deadline, leaving it to Park’s administration that was inaugurated in February.
It may be understandable that Park, a conservative who has taken a principled stance on security issues, found it difficult to continue Roh’s initiatives, which had set off a posthumous controversy over whether he had forsaken the western sea border during his 2007 summit with then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. But it is undesirable that a basic plan for handling relations with the North goes through drastic changes whenever a new president takes office in Seoul to serve a five-year term. Establishing and maintaining key policies unaffected by changes of government is essential for managing versatile situations on the peninsula and laying the groundwork for the eventual reunification of the two Koreas.
A World Bank report released this week suggested North Korea’s political stability had improved since Kim Jong-un took power following his father Kim Jong-il’s death in 2011. Though the future of the impoverished regime in Pyongyang remains uncertain, the possibility cannot be ruled out that the young ruler will oversee a long period of dictatorship. It is just unpleasant to imagine him witnessing South Korean leaders of the future shift their policies toward his regime. What is worrying is that there is no reassurance that this scenario will remain within our imagination.