Sunday, September 20, 2009

Progressive South Koreans seek to revive Kim Dae-jung's "Sunshine" policy of reconciliation

Longtime East Asian correspondent and KJ contributor Donald Kirk reports on the range of views coming out of South Korea regarding possible bilateral talks between the U.S. and North Korea in a Sept. 19 article for the Asia Times:
...The South's President Lee Myung-bak and his Unification Minister, Hyun In-taek, have been saying, warily, that, sure, they don't mind if the US does whatever it can to speed up the process, but North Korea had better give up its nukes first - and forget about bypassing South Korea on the way.

South Korea's suspicion that the whole idea of bilateral dialogue is North Korea's way of simply attempting to gain recognition of its status as a nuclear power worries US diplomats. They don't want to appear to be cold-shouldering their South Korean ally while kowtowing to Kim Jong-il for a bilateral process that's likely to go nowhere fast...
However, many influential South Korean progressives (including Paik Nak-chung, a retired professor of English literature and iconic figure in the democracy movement, and Lim Dong-won, the key architect of Kim Dae-jung's Sunshine Policy) refuse to give up hope on reconciliation and reunification. A coalition of former high-ranking officials, scholars, and civic group figures supporting engagement with North Korea seeks to bring conservatives and progressives together in respectful search for and negotiation of alternatives. They've launched the Korean Peninsula Peace Forum, which held its inaugural meeting earlier in September:
...The forum, co-chaired by Paik Nak-chung and Lim Dong-won, has been convened for the purpose of refocusing the pro-engagement camp, which have dispersed under a continuous “anti-Sunshine Policy assault” since the launch of the Lee Myung-bak administration, and for building a base to realize inter-Korean reconciliation and a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

In a resolution adopted at the meeting held at the Korea Press Center in Seoul’s Jung-gu, the Korean Peninsula Peace Forum said it would seek peace, mutual prosperity and peaceful reunification on the Korean Peninsula and develop the engagement policy necessary to realize these goals. The resolution also calls on the Lee Myung-bak administration to switch its current North Korea policy into one of active reconciliation and cooperation for peace in Korea and to improve inter-Korean relations. Moreover, it calls on both the U.S. Barack Obama administration to adopt an active and flexible attitude in negotiations with North Korea, and the North Korean authorities to return to the six-party talks.

Some 120 figures participated in the forum’s first meeting, including former unification ministers Han Wan-sang, Lim Dong-won, Jeong Se-hyun, Lee Jong-seok, and Lee Jae-joung. Baek Jong-chun, former presidential secretary for security, Ven. Jigwan, executive chief of the Jogye Order of Buddhism, Kim Sang-geun, South Korean co-representative on the Committee for the Implementation of the June 15 Joint Declaration, Hong Chong-gil, president of the North-South Sharing Movement and Chung Hyun-baek, director of Women Making Peace were also present...
The Korean Peninsula Peace Forum recently met at the US Capitol, sharing thoughts on various approaches to reunification--and voicing both hope and doubt whether this is possible anytime soon--according to Kirk: array of speakers, most of them from the liberal Korean reconciliation movement, urged bilateral dialogue to bring about a peace treaty formally ending the Korean War in place of the truce signed by the US, North Korea and China in July 1953. (Rhee Syngman, then president of South Korea, refused to agree to the truce, which he said made permanent the division of the Korean Peninsula)...

Others at the forum were far more outspoken, harking back to the "Sunshine" policy of reconciliation initiated by the late Kim Dae-jung during his presidency from 1998 to 2003.

Park Won-soon, executive director of the Hope Institute of South Korea, charged the Lee Myung-bak government "just took steps to reverse the course of national reconciliation and cooperation in Korea". He called on the Lee government to "seize the opportunity newly created" by Bill Clinton and "the North Korean leadership for resuming dialogue and cooperation" and urged the US government "to take bold initiatives in their Korea policy..."

No comments: