GNP Has Image Problem With NK
Two leading presidential aspirants of the opposition Grand National Party (GNP) have image problems at least in the eyes of North Korea.
Pyongyang has repeatedly warned that inter-Korean relations would become chilly once either of them took power. Unlike former President Kim Dae-jung and President Roh Moo-hyun, the GNP contenders oppose the engagement policy with North Korea. Former Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak is regarded here as being more flexible than former GNP Chairwoman Park Geun-hye, but Pyongyang sees the two as hawkish toward it.
An episode last week in Pyongyang well illustrated how North Korean leaders have perceptions toward the GNP. A GNP lawmaker was denied a VIP seat at a joint ceremony to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the historic summit between Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il.
Few disagree that North Korea will be one of the crucial factors in the presidential election in December, although North Koreans do not vote in the election.
Lee proposed Monday to build a joint economic enclave near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
Lee and Park have shared similar views on the Stalinist North Korea.
Lee coined the term ``Nadeul Island'' for the special zone, meaning free passage ins and out of people, information and capital between the South and North.
``The project is one of the plans of action designed to help North Korea give up its nuclear ambitions. In return, the international community will help the North achieve $3,000 per capita income,'' he said.
Lee proposed the government designate the area at the mouth of the Han River as an inter-Korean economic enclave.
According to Lee, the South can prevent its high tech businesses from going abroad in search of cheap labor costs, while North Korea would benefit from job creation.
Therefore, the two Koreas will be better off, he said.
He emphasized the joint project seeks the dual goal of easing security tension and making the enclave a hub of Northeast Asia in the long run.
Lee made it clear last Thursday that denuclearization is the ultimate goal of his North Korea policy.
Park has said the government should seek the complete dismantlement of nuclear programs on the Korean Peninsula as its ultimate security goal.
The two candidates also share the view that the North will be able to receive economic assistance from the international community if it faithfully fulfills its security commitments.
They expressed skepticism toward the government's engagement policy, agreeing that the Sunshine Policy has revealed its limitations in changing the North.
Lee said the inter-Korean declaration on June 15, 2000, has failed to resolve the security threat posed by North Korea.
He further assailed presidential hopefuls of the pro-government Uri Party for their playing politics with the North Korea card such as talks of an inter-Korean summit.
Park put forward a carrot and stick approach to the North as an alternative to the allegedly failed engagement policy.
She claimed the government should draw a line and give a clear message to the North to play by the rules.
``If the North crosses the line, the country will be sanctioned. If it fulfills its commitments, North Korea will benefit from economic compensation offered by the international community,'' she emphasized.
The former party chairwoman has not clarified her plans for inter-Korean economic cooperation yet.