Unification by Sunshine Policy
Inter-Korean relations have been highly unstable in the past several years. The level of military tension between both sides of the Demilitarized Zone escalated to an unprecedented level.
In 2010, North Korea carried out its two deadliest attacks in the modern history, taking the lives of 50 South Koreans.
The policy, dubbed “Denuclearization, Opening and Vision 3000,” was designed to provide economic assistance over the next 10 years, in cooperation with other countries, to help North Korea undertake reform and increase its per capita national income to $3,000.
Since denuclearization was a precondition to a country which would not abandon nuclear weapons and programs, the inter-Korean policy was unable to successfully engage North Korea.
The conservative government chose the path of hard-line approach. It defined the previous government’s North Korea policy as a failure regarding it as “pumping” economic aid to Pyongyang’s hands.
The current policy toward Pyongyang resulted in the two Koreas facing the current diplomatic stalemate. The inter-Korean relations were severely strained.
In this age of disconnected dialogue and mutual exchanges, it is very important to revise the inter-Korean policy. Such a measure starts from thoroughly reviewing the policy proceeded by the previous two liberal governments.
The Sunshine Policy was adopted by the Kim Dae-jung government in order to improve the relationship with North Korea on a long term perspective by mutual exchanges and joint cooperation projects.
Those who supported the Sunshine Policy often referred to Aesop’s Fable, titled the “North Wind and the Sun,” to emphasize its advantages. The main idea was that only the sun, not the wind, makes a passing traveler remove his cloak.
Indeed, the level of South-North interchanges dramatically increased as the Kim administration sought to make exchanges in many aspects.
According to statistics, in 1998 alone, excluding 10,554 tourists who visited Mt. Geumgang, the number of civilians who visited North Korea stood at 3,317. This number is higher than the total number of visitors from 1989 to 1997.
In addition, the total amount of the government’s humanitarian assistance in the five years since Kim Dae-jung was elected president is estimated to be 855 billion won.
The period of “generous yet undisciplined” approach toward the North was also a time when two historic summits were held in 2000 and 2007. Leaders from both Koreas vowed to achieve peace and common prosperity by closely cooperating with each other.
The June 15 Joint Declaration and the Oct. 4 joint declaration agreed to reduce military tension, resolve issues of conflict through dialogue and negotiation.
The two Koreas also sought to actively promote joint economic cooperation projects. The large joint South-North cooperation project, Gaeseong Industrial Complex, was launched in 2003.
In order to achieve sustaining peace and co-prosperity on the Korean Peninsula, the pathway of the North Korea policy should head toward reconciliation and reaping mutual benefits like the time when the South pursued engagement with the North.
Time and again, history has shown that hard-line approach has never worked with nuclear-armed North.
The South Korean government ought to develop a flexible approach toward the North. Now is the time to raise the matters of unresolved conflicts and progress toward peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.
The writer is a student at Kyung Hee University. He can be reached at email@example.com.