Ridicule for Lee’s reunification rhetoric


Ridicule for Lee’s reunification rhetoric
By Donald Kirk
SEOUL – Kim Dae-jung would have loved it. On the first anniversary of the late South Korean’ president’s death on August 18, North Korea was denouncing the plan of the present, conservative, incumbent, Lee Myung-bak, for reunifying North and South as ”ridiculous rhetoric”.
The North Korean blast coincided with observances here, and in Kim’s birthplace off the southwestern coast, memorializing a life best remembered for crusading as president for his “Sunshine” policy of reconciliation with North Korea for which he received the Nobel Peace prize in 2000.
Now the Sunshine policy is in tatters, South Korean and American forces are staging military exercises, and North Korea is threatening “all-out war” while denying anything to do with the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March.
Kim Dae-jung’s closest associates, on the plaza in front of Seoul City Hall, at the national cemetery here and at a newly opened museum beside his boyhood home on Haui Island, a three-hour boat ride from the port of Mokpo, recalled his crusade for peace while accusing Lee of undoing all that he had accomplished.
It was actually difficult to tell who was more strident in castigating Lee for his peace proposal, North Korea’s rhetoricians or just about anyone you were likely to meet on the streets of Seoul. ”Ridiculous” was an oft-repeated word on both sides of the North-South line – especially in the South where no one, it seemed, is going to subscribe to Lee’s proposal a ”unification tax” to defray the enormous costs of reunification.
Koreans who might otherwise look with the greatest distrust on North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-il, seemed to distrust Lee even more for mooting the idea Sunday on the 65th anniversary of ”liberation” from 35 years of Japanese rule. ”It’s really ridiculous,” said office worker Oh Sung-guk, asking what would happen to the money. Surely, he said, ”they’ll keep some for themselves.”
While a Lee spokesperson sought to minimize concerns, saying the government “does not intend to impose the tax right now”, North Korea saw Lee’s scheme for reunification as a plot ”to force” the North ”to disarm itself” with ”the ambition of invading together with the US”.
Embroidering on this theme, the North’s Committee for Peaceful Reunification said Lee’s remarks were “tantamount to a declaration of an all-out confrontation to bring down the system”. The whole point of Lee’s “very unsavory” idea, said the statement, was to try to sew turmoil inside North Korea.
If Lee’s proposal seemed basically to have died a quick death before taking its first deep breaths, the Sunshine policy of reconciliation with North Korea lived on among Kim Dae-jung’s undying fans and constituents.
On huge screens on the covered scaffolding behind which a new Seoul city hall is under construction, images of Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il reminded the faithful of the first inter-Korean summit in June 2000. There was DJ, as he is still widely known here, walking down the red carpet after arriving in Pyongyang, and there he was, smiling and embracing North Korea’s Dear Leader.
In the gathering gloom of evening, Kim Dae-jung’s widow, Lee Hee-ho, garbed in black, sat in a wheelchair guarded by a row of plain-clothed police agents. In front of her, seated cross-legged on the lawn, were some of DJ’s highest one-time aides, including Park Jie-won, a National Assembly member from DJ’s South Cholla Province, who helped engineer the payoffs that went into North Korean coffers before Kim Jong-il agreed to the summit.
Kim Dae-jung “is still alive in the minds of people in Korea and the world,” said Park, who was jailed for taking bribes during the payoff scandal but now leads the opposition Democratic Party in the assembly. “We should bear his philosophy and ideology in mind and develop them further.”
Kim Dae-jung “is still alive in the minds of people in Korea and the world,” said Park, who was jailed for taking bribes during the payoff scandal but now leads the opposition Democratic Party in the assembly. “We should bear his philosophy and ideology in mind and develop them further.”
Kim Dae-jung “is still alive in the minds of people in Korea and the world,” said Park, who was jailed for taking bribes during the payoff scandal but now leads the opposition Democratic Party in the assembly. “We should bear his philosophy and ideology in mind and develop them further.”
A few thousand people on the lawn cheered and sang along with choristers and soloists on a broad stage, including a female dwarf who played the piano and sang a rousing rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Waters. On the sidelines, booths displayed copies of books of Kim Dae-jung’s speeches and brochures on the hopes engendered by his Sunshine policy during the five years in which was president, from 1998 to 2003, and the next five years of the presidency of Roh Moo-hyun, who committed suicide in May 2009, nearly three months before DJ’s death.
The sentimental outpouring for Kim Dae-jung revealed the reservoir of support for a president whose Sunshine policy was seen by conservatives as mainly a giveaway to North Korea in the form of concessions and agreements that were never fulfilled. The policy basically broke down in 2007 when North Korea failed to begin to shut down its nuclear program as agreed on that year after the North conducted its first nuclear test in October 2006.
South Koreans showed their disillusionment in December 2007 by overwhelmingly electing Lee Myung-bak, a former Hyundai Construction tycoon, over a left-leaning candidate strongly backed by both Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun.
Kim Dae-jung’s undying adherents, who see him as a hero of almost god-like proportions, blame the death of Sunshine on Lee’s conservative turnaround – and, of course, his revival of frayed the US-Korean alliance that had fallen in serious disrepair during Roh’s presidency.
”It’s almost unimaginable that North Korea will return to six-party talks when North Korea experienced this power confrontation,” said Paik Hak-soon, director of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute think-tank that had strong ties to DJ’s government. ”The US has used a military security card in dealing with North Korea and China.”
Paik accused the US of “intentionally linking the Cheonan case” – that is, the sinking of the Korean navy corvette the Cheonan with a loss of 46 lives – to six-party talks by saying North Korea first had to admit its role and apologize before talks could resume.
North Korea has refused to attend six-party talks since December 2008 but said after the sinking of the Cheonan that it was willing to return to the table providing it had ”an equal footing” with the other participants, including China, Russia and Japan as well as the US and South Korea. That turn of phrase is generally seen as meaning North Korea needs to be recognized as a nuclear power – and that the UN Security Council has to do away with sanctions imposed after its second nuclear test in May 2009.
Paik called ”the apparent use of the military-security card” by the US ”an equivalent to a preventive war” that was ”targeted at curbing the rise of China and simultaneously making south Korea and Japan dependent on US cooperation.” The result, he said, was ”our hope for denuclearizing North Korea was practically lost – a disaster in our effort to achieve a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.”
That view collides with growing acceptance among Koreans of the results of a South Korea investigation, including experts from the US, the UK, Australia and Sweden, who found North Korea responsible for ordering a midget submarine to sink the Cheonan with a single torpedo.
In the face of leftist charges of inconsistencies and deletions from summaries of the report, South Korea’s defense ministry is due to release a full version next week. President Lee, however, still faces widespread opposition to a military response if North Korea stages another surprise attack.
”We should immediately give a strong message to North Korea, ‘Please do not do that again’,” said Kim Tae-woo, senior research fellow at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses. He excoriated South Korean leftists calling for renewed aid and trade with the North. ”By strengthening North Korea,” he said, “how can we expect them to give up their weapons.”
Donald Kirk, a long-time journalist in Asia, is author of the newly published Korea Betrayed: Kim Dae Jung and Sunshine.
(Copyright 2010 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

Ridicule for Lee’s reunification rhetoricBy Donald Kirk
SEOUL – Kim Dae-jung would have loved it. On the first anniversary of the late South Korean’ president’s death on August 18, North Korea was denouncing the plan of the present, conservative, incumbent, Lee Myung-bak, for reunifying North and South as ”ridiculous rhetoric”.
The North Korean blast coincided with observances here, and in Kim’s birthplace off the southwestern coast, memorializing a life best remembered for crusading as president for his “Sunshine” policy of reconciliation with North Korea for which he received the Nobel Peace prize in 2000.
Now the Sunshine policy is in tatters, South Korean and American forces are staging military exercises, and North Korea is threatening “all-out war” while denying anything to do with the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March.
Kim Dae-jung’s closest associates, on the plaza in front of Seoul City Hall, at the national cemetery here and at a newly opened museum beside his boyhood home on Haui Island, a three-hour boat ride from the port of Mokpo, recalled his crusade for peace while accusing Lee of undoing all that he had accomplished.
It was actually difficult to tell who was more strident in castigating Lee for his peace proposal, North Korea’s rhetoricians or just about anyone you were likely to meet on the streets of Seoul. ”Ridiculous” was an oft-repeated word on both sides of the North-South line – especially in the South where no one, it seemed, is going to subscribe to Lee’s proposal a ”unification tax” to defray the enormous costs of reunification.
Koreans who might otherwise look with the greatest distrust on North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-il, seemed to distrust Lee even more for mooting the idea Sunday on the 65th anniversary of ”liberation” from 35 years of Japanese rule. ”It’s really ridiculous,” said office worker Oh Sung-guk, asking what would happen to the money. Surely, he said, ”they’ll keep some for themselves.”
While a Lee spokesperson sought to minimize concerns, saying the government “does not intend to impose the tax right now”, North Korea saw Lee’s scheme for reunification as a plot ”to force” the North ”to disarm itself” with ”the ambition of invading together with the US”.
Embroidering on this theme, the North’s Committee for Peaceful Reunification said Lee’s remarks were “tantamount to a declaration of an all-out confrontation to bring down the system”. The whole point of Lee’s “very unsavory” idea, said the statement, was to try to sew turmoil inside North Korea.
If Lee’s proposal seemed basically to have died a quick death before taking its first deep breaths, the Sunshine policy of reconciliation with North Korea lived on among Kim Dae-jung’s undying fans and constituents.
On huge screens on the covered scaffolding behind which a new Seoul city hall is under construction, images of Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il reminded the faithful of the first inter-Korean summit in June 2000. There was DJ, as he is still widely known here, walking down the red carpet after arriving in Pyongyang, and there he was, smiling and embracing North Korea’s Dear Leader.
In the gathering gloom of evening, Kim Dae-jung’s widow, Lee Hee-ho, garbed in black, sat in a wheelchair guarded by a row of plain-clothed police agents. In front of her, seated cross-legged on the lawn, were some of DJ’s highest one-time aides, including Park Jie-won, a National Assembly member from DJ’s South Cholla Province, who helped engineer the payoffs that went into North Korean coffers before Kim Jong-il agreed to the summit.
Kim Dae-jung “is still alive in the minds of people in Korea and the world,” said Park, who was jailed for taking bribes during the payoff scandal but now leads the opposition Democratic Party in the assembly. “We should bear his philosophy and ideology in mind and develop them further.”
Kim Dae-jung “is still alive in the minds of people in Korea and the world,” said Park, who was jailed for taking bribes during the payoff scandal but now leads the opposition Democratic Party in the assembly. “We should bear his philosophy and ideology in mind and develop them further.”
Kim Dae-jung “is still alive in the minds of people in Korea and the world,” said Park, who was jailed for taking bribes during the payoff scandal but now leads the opposition Democratic Party in the assembly. “We should bear his philosophy and ideology in mind and develop them further.”
A few thousand people on the lawn cheered and sang along with choristers and soloists on a broad stage, including a female dwarf who played the piano and sang a rousing rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Waters. On the sidelines, booths displayed copies of books of Kim Dae-jung’s speeches and brochures on the hopes engendered by his Sunshine policy during the five years in which was president, from 1998 to 2003, and the next five years of the presidency of Roh Moo-hyun, who committed suicide in May 2009, nearly three months before DJ’s death.
The sentimental outpouring for Kim Dae-jung revealed the reservoir of support for a president whose Sunshine policy was seen by conservatives as mainly a giveaway to North Korea in the form of concessions and agreements that were never fulfilled. The policy basically broke down in 2007 when North Korea failed to begin to shut down its nuclear program as agreed on that year after the North conducted its first nuclear test in October 2006.
South Koreans showed their disillusionment in December 2007 by overwhelmingly electing Lee Myung-bak, a former Hyundai Construction tycoon, over a left-leaning candidate strongly backed by both Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun.
Kim Dae-jung’s undying adherents, who see him as a hero of almost god-like proportions, blame the death of Sunshine on Lee’s conservative turnaround – and, of course, his revival of frayed the US-Korean alliance that had fallen in serious disrepair during Roh’s presidency.
”It’s almost unimaginable that North Korea will return to six-party talks when North Korea experienced this power confrontation,” said Paik Hak-soon, director of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute think-tank that had strong ties to DJ’s government. ”The US has used a military security card in dealing with North Korea and China.”
Paik accused the US of “intentionally linking the Cheonan case” – that is, the sinking of the Korean navy corvette the Cheonan with a loss of 46 lives – to six-party talks by saying North Korea first had to admit its role and apologize before talks could resume.
North Korea has refused to attend six-party talks since December 2008 but said after the sinking of the Cheonan that it was willing to return to the table providing it had ”an equal footing” with the other participants, including China, Russia and Japan as well as the US and South Korea. That turn of phrase is generally seen as meaning North Korea needs to be recognized as a nuclear power – and that the UN Security Council has to do away with sanctions imposed after its second nuclear test in May 2009.
Paik called ”the apparent use of the military-security card” by the US ”an equivalent to a preventive war” that was ”targeted at curbing the rise of China and simultaneously making south Korea and Japan dependent on US cooperation.” The result, he said, was ”our hope for denuclearizing North Korea was practically lost – a disaster in our effort to achieve a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.”
That view collides with growing acceptance among Koreans of the results of a South Korea investigation, including experts from the US, the UK, Australia and Sweden, who found North Korea responsible for ordering a midget submarine to sink the Cheonan with a single torpedo.
In the face of leftist charges of inconsistencies and deletions from summaries of the report, South Korea’s defense ministry is due to release a full version next week. President Lee, however, still faces widespread opposition to a military response if North Korea stages another surprise attack.
”We should immediately give a strong message to North Korea, ‘Please do not do that again’,” said Kim Tae-woo, senior research fellow at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses. He excoriated South Korean leftists calling for renewed aid and trade with the North. ”By strengthening North Korea,” he said, “how can we expect them to give up their weapons.”
Donald Kirk, a long-time journalist in Asia, is author of the newly published Korea Betrayed: Kim Dae Jung and Sunshine.
(Copyright 2010 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s