South Korea launched a presidential blue-ribbon committee devoted to making preparations for inter-Korean unification Tuesday. The 50-member panel, aided by 31 experts and 68 advisers, will be tasked with laying the groundwork for the reunification of the two Koreas, which have been divided for more than six decades, through joint work between government policymakers and private-sector pundits.
President Park Geun-hye disclosed the plan to set up the committee in time for the first anniversary of her presidency in February. Since then, she has made strong pitches for unification, saying it would be a “bonanza” for both Koreas and a blessing for their neighboring countries. During her visit to the former East German city of Dresden in March, Park unveiled her unification initiative. The plan calls for the bolstering of cross-border cooperation in fields related to improving living standards in the North as an initial step toward building trust between the two Koreas.
It is certain that unification would bring prosperity to all Koreans by making it possible to combine the South’s capital and technology with the North’s labor and natural resources. But sophisticated strategies should be pursued in a cautious manner from a long-term perspective to circumvent Pyongyang’s fear of being absorbed by Seoul and settle discord in South Korean society over how to handle the impoverished and recalcitrant regime.
In this sense, it is appropriate for the committee, which will hold its inaugural session next month, to include the chief policymaker of the main opposition party and figures who worked in the previous liberal administrations that sought reconciliation with the North. In addition, serious consideration should be given to making a bipartisan agreement to lay the legal and institutional foundation to enable the presidential panel to continue functioning beyond the term of the current government.
As shown in its recent moves, mixing a series of missile and rocket launches with a decision to attend the Asian Games that will be held in South Korea in September, Pyongyang has repeatedly sent confusing signals in an attempt to drive a wedge between conservative and liberal groups in the South. It should be another key mission of the committee to suggest ways to outwit such maneuvers.