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[Newsmaker] Sunshine Policy DP’s bone of contention

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Published : 2014-01-15 20:06
Updated : 2014-01-15 20:06

Lawmakers taking part in a forum aimed at reducing regionalism, including Democratic Party Rep. Park Jie-won (second from left) and Saenuri Party floor leader Rep. Choi Kyung-hwan (second from right), tour late President Kim Dae-jung’s birthplace in Sinan-gun, South Jeolla Province, Wednesday. (Yonhap News)

The main opposition Democratic Party’s North Korean policy is under the spotlight following party chairman Rep. Kim Han-gil’s mention of a new policy on relations with Pyongyang.

On Monday, Kim said that his party would draw up a North Korean policy centered on “national unity,” saying that the issue should no longer divide the nation. The progressive bloc has preferred engaging North Korea, while conservatives have criticized such policies as pandering to the communist state.

His comments prompted speculations that major changes will be made to the Sunshine Policy, introduced by the party’s iconic leader late President Kim Dae-jung.

As such views spread, and were welcomed by the ruling Saenuri Party, Kim responded by saying that the core of the Sunshine Policy would remain intact.

“I was talking of the plan to succeed and improve the Sunshine Policy in line with changes in the state of the times while upholding its principles,” Kim said at the party’s supreme council meeting on Wednesday.

He went on to say that the three principles of the Sunshine Policy are still valid. The three principles of the Sunshine Policy are zero tolerance on military provocations, making no attempts to damage or absorb North Korea and promoting inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation.

“Based on these three principles, the DP will upgrade its North Korean policy by reflecting the changes in the situation and the people’s perception.”

Introduced in the late 1990s during the Kim Dae-jung administration, the Sunshine Policy aims to engage North Korea in dialogue and inter-Korean exchange.

Under the policy, Seoul eased regulations regarding South Korean entities investing in North Korea.

Inter-Korean economic projects that resulted from Seoul’s softer stance on North Korea include the Gaeseong industrial complex and the halted tours to Geumgangsan Mountain.

While the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations maintained amiable relations with Pyongyang, critics have accused the two progressive governments of effectively funding North Korea’s nuclear program.

While Kim and other DP officials attempt to contain speculations regarding the Sunshine Policy, the party’s North Korean policies appear likely to undergo at least some changes.

At Monday’s press conference Kim also revealed that the DP will draw up a single bill regarding human rights in North Korea, indicating a changed stance on the issue.

He said the new bill could be used in negotiations with the Saenuri Party.

The North Korean Human Rights Act was first proposed in 2005, but the DP and other progressive parties have blocked its legislation over concerns of provoking Pyongyang. As an alternative, DP lawmakers have championed a number of bills focused on providing aid to North Korean civilians.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)

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