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S. Korea maps out ‘audacious plan’ to provide security guarantees for N. Korea

Unification Ministry seeks to allow S. Koreans to freely access N. Korean state media reports

Unification Minister Kwon Young-se gives a briefing on his ministry`s business report to President Yoon Suk-yeol at the presidential office in Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap)
Unification Minister Kwon Young-se gives a briefing on his ministry`s business report to President Yoon Suk-yeol at the presidential office in Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap)
South Korea’s Unification Ministry said its focus is on mapping out an “audacious plan” to provide economic compensation and security guarantees in return for North Korea’s “substantial measures for denuclearization.”

Unification Minister Kwon Young-se on Friday briefed President Yoon Suk-yeol on the vision of North Korea and unification policy as well as three principles and five core tasks to implement the policy, the Unification Ministry said in a press statement.

The vision of the policy is to “seek peaceful unification based on the liberal democratic order to establish a nuclear-free, peaceful and prosperous Korean Peninsula.”

The three major principles are not to tolerate any kind of armed provocations, to develop mutually beneficial inter-Korean relations, and to establish the foundation for peaceful reunification.

Audacious plan
At a news conference following the briefing, Kwon said he focused on explaining the Unification Ministry’s plan to create a virtuous cycle of achieving North Korea’s complete denuclearization and building confidence between the two Koreas.

The Unification Minister went on to say that pushing forward the “audacious plan” is key to achieving the goal.

In a separate press statement, the Unification Ministry explained that it has been drawing up the plan — which was first proposed by Yoon in his inauguration speech on May 10 — in tandem with related ministries.

In essence, the plan is to take into account economic assistance to North Korea and the country’s security concerns, according to the Unification Ministry.

The plan puts an emphasis on devising measures to implement economic cooperation with North Korea and provide security guarantees for the country. The compensations will be offered “in stages corresponding to North Korea’s substantial measures for denuclearization.”

In a nutshell, the Yoon government will “provide corresponding measures in a phased and simultaneous manner,” the Unification Ministry said, elucidating that it is not pursuing a big deal or all-or-nothing approach. The South Korean government also is not seeking a denuclearization first, then compensation approach.

“We are devising an audacious proposal to the extent that North Korea no longer sees the necessity to develop nuclear weapons,” Kwon said during the press briefing at the presidential office, without sharing further details.

“The core is to resolve political and military confrontations and push forward a consultation on economic cooperation with North Korea through inter-Korean dialogue and trilateral talks among the two Koreas and the US in keeping with substantial progress in North Korea’s denuclearization.”

Kwon said the Yoon government aims to “flesh out the plan in the near future in close coordination and cooperation with the US and propose it to North Korea.”

The Unification Ministry has weighed several options including measures for “military confidence building and arms control,” a high-ranking ministry official said during a closed-door briefing when asked about the issue.

The official, who wished to remain anonymous, also suggested that measures to improve diplomatic ties between the US and North Korea have been under consideration, explaining that what North Korea has consistently pursued since the 1970s is the restoration of US-North Korea relations.

Opening N. Korean media to public
Kwon said he also underscored the Unification Ministry’s plan to consistently push forward humanitarian cooperation with North Korea regardless of the political and military situation during his briefing to Yoon. The ministry hopes that COVID-19 aid could be momentum for inter-Korean cooperation on health care.

At the same time, the Unification Ministry seeks to substantially improve North Korean human rights to realize universal values of humankind. The expeditious launch of a North Korean human rights foundation -- which has been postponed for more than six years -- was proposed as one measure to fulfill the goal.

In addition, the Unification Ministry also set out a goal of restoring ethnic homogeneity by actively seeking inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation regardless of the denuclearization progress.

As part of its efforts, the Unification Ministry plans to gradually enable public access to North Korea’s state-run outlets and publications, most of which are off limits to South Koreans, with the intent to enhance better understanding of North Korea. It did not give further details.

The Unification Ministry aims to come up with measures that South Korea can unilaterally take to restore ethnic homogeneity, the ministry source said during the briefing. Against that backdrop, the ministry has considered the option of opening North Korean state media outlets to the South Korean public while encouraging North Korea to take corresponding measures.

By Ji Da-gyum (dagyumji@heraldcorp.com)
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