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Posted : 2012-04-16 17:22
Updated : 2012-04-16 17:22

Park plays hardball with NK


Rep. Park Geun-hye
By Kang Hyun-kyung

Park Geun-hye has called for adopting a parliamentary resolution condemning North Korea over the firing of a long-range rocket, urging the reclusive nation not to conduct a third nuclear test.

During a meeting with members of the Saenuri Party’s interim leadership body, she emphasized the need for a unified voice domestically on Pyongyang’s threat. “It is significant to send an agreed voice on North Korea to the outside world,” the presidential hopeful stressed.

The daughter of the late President Park Chung-hee called on the North to open up its economy and seek reform to feed its hungry people by highlighting the trouble facing them.

“If North Korea had not fired the rocket, the regime could have fed its malnourished people who are struggling to deal with crop shortages for many years,” she said. “South Korea is ready to team up with the international community to help the North overcome poverty. But the global effort will be unsuccessful if the country misses the opportunity.”

The timing of her bringing up the issue drew fresh attention as she made the remarks at a time when her influence and clout appears stronger after the National Assembly elections.

This led to the question: Has she tailored the North Korea message to position her as a tough leader ahead of the presidential election?

Her aide neither confirmed nor denied it. Lee Sang-il, a lawmaker-elect serving as a Saenuri Party spokesman, said Park prepared the message on her own before attending the meeting, saying North Korea is one of her key issue interests. “She has studied a lot about it,” he said.

On Friday, the ruling party released a statement condemning North Korea for the launch of the Kwangmyongsong 3 satellite on the back of the Unha-3 rocket at round 7:50 a.m. It said the launch was a violation of the U.N. Security Council resolutions and urged the regime to focus on feeding its hungry citizens.

Lee received a phone call from Park about 30 minutes later. Park, who didn’t know at that time that the statement was already released, told Lee to prepare for one. “After learning what elements were included in the released statement, she said it was well written. It displayed her deep concern over North Korea,” Lee said.

Park, who received a warm welcome from the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il when she visited the country as a private citizen in May 2002, has kept a conservative point of view on the North.

Last year, she proposed the idea of building trust between the two Koreas as a necessary step to achieve unification through her op-ed for bimonthly magazine Foreign Affairs.

She linked economic assistance to North Korea’s giving up of its nuclear weapons program.

Back in 2007 during the primary campaign of the Grand National Party (now the Saenuri Party), Park adopted a hard-line North Korea vision, dubbed the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization as her North Korea vision.

The strategy was popular among Washington neoconservative thinkers during the first term of the George W. Bush administration but short-lived as Bush shifted his North Korea policy in the second term.

Park labeled her vision as “a dining table strategy.” According to her, there are a variety of good, tasty dishes on the table North Korea can enjoy if it gives up the nuclear program.

But if the communist state shows no signs of denuclearizing, continues with provocations, and finally crosses the line, Park warned, it will be punished with sticks.

There seems to be no major difference in her stance on North Korea, given her recent piece contributing article for a bimonthly magazine last year.

She proposed the idea of building trust between the two Koreas as a necessary step to achieve reunification through her op-ed for Foreign Affairs.

She is expected to elaborate her foreign policy vision in the near future as she will run in the primary to select a presidential candidate for the Saenuri Party.

The party will select a new leadership lineup, including its chairperson and Supreme Council members who will prepare for the primary, by mid May.

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