The chief of the main opposition Democratic Party vowed Monday to establish a policy on North Korea that centers on national unity.
Kim Han-gil made the pledge in a New Year's press conference as he cited President Park Geun-hye's recently announced goal of laying the groundwork for reunification.
"Reunification without preparation will bring great chaos to the Korean Peninsula," Kim said during the news conference at the National Assembly. "Therefore, the government should present the people with (a plan for) how it will build reunification as a process."
Last Monday, Park in her own New Year's press conference vowed to focus on two main issues this year -- economic revival and preparations for reunifying the Koreas that have been divided since the 1950-53 Korean War.
She proposed reunions of families separated after the war, but North Korea rejected the offer, citing South Korea's annual military drills with the United States.
"I was glad to hear the president say that it is necessary to build a foundation for reunification, which she called a 'jackpot,'" Kim said. "That helped break the common misconception that reunification is a cost. However, only a gradual and peaceful reunification is a blessing. Reunification by absorption, which would come from a sudden change in North Korea, could be a catastrophe."
Kim urged the government to back up Park's pledge with actual steps to improve inter-Korean ties, such as by lifting the economic sanctions Seoul placed on Pyongyang following the North's sinking of a South Korean warship in March 2010.
"The DP will prepare a policy on North Korea that centers on national unity," the opposition leader said. "Our policy on North Korea should no longer provide a reason for public divisiveness."
Citing signs of Japan's increasing militarism and North Korea's nuclear weapons development, Kim also called for bipartisan efforts to create a single national voice on foreign policy issues. Under the political circumstances, that would be the only way to secure a voice and influence in the region, he said.
On North Korea's notorious human rights abuses, Kim said his party is well aware of the problems and will draw up a bill aimed at improving the human rights situation and the livelihoods of the public in the communist country. (Yonhap News)