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North Korea Today No. 253 - Commentary

RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR NORTH KOREAN SOCIETY
[Weekely Newsletter] No.253 - Commentary, November 2008
[Commentary] South and North Korea should revive their cooperation and exchange programs without any preconditions
Inter-Korea relations are deteriorating continuously. The Mt. Geumkang tourism enterprise had already been hit hard, and there are signs that the Kaesong Industrial Complex may also be affected. The South Korean government seems to doubt whether the North would proceed to close the Kaesong Industrial Complex, and tries to maintain the appearance of consistent policy toward the North Korea without any changes. On the other hand, the North may consider the Kaesong Industrial Complex of little real value and might be willing to accept some economic loses (if the Complex is closed). The North takes the stand that if the South continues to disregard 6.15 and 10.4 Declarations, the inter-Korea relations would have to go back to pre-6.15 condition and the Kaesong Industrial Complex might be closed. If both sides have to accept losses, as long as the damage is greater to the South, North seems to think it worthwhile to do.

The North and South Koreas have continuously played such exhaustive power games ever since the beginning of the new administration in South Korea. Even if we put aside the Mt. Geumkang shooting incident, the South’s policies such as denuclearization, Open Doors, and Openness and Vision 3000, etc., as well as some remarks by the South Korean authorities have irked the North Korea.

Recently, a series of events such as reporting on the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il's health issue, participating in the joint resolution for a UN Human Rights Resolution against the North, and disseminating of anti-North Korea leaflets by conservative activists, have irritated the North. The North Korea also has increased the level of criticism on President Lee and raised the discomfort level in the Blue House, expelled the resident staff of Hyundae from Mt. Geumkang, severed the communication lines between two Koreas, and raised the possibility of even closing the Kaesong Industrial Complex, and has actually taken some necessary steps.

At this time, we have to ask what the two Korean authorities want to achieve through these power games. Since the beginning of this year, the program of reuniting separated families had been suspended, and ten million separated families have suffered heart breaking grief. Due to suspension of South Korea’s food aid, the residents of North Korea had suffered the worst ever hardship in the spring, and the death rates of farmers and the vulnerable classes have dramatically increased. The owners of the small- and medium-industries in the Kaesong Industrial Complex want to know how they can continue their work whenever there is a new administration, the policies change, and plan to demand compensations from the South Korean government. If the enterprises in the Kaesong Industrial Complex is suspended, not only many South Korean companies will be forced to shut down, but also the livelihood of 35,000 North Korean workers and about 100,000 of their families will be threatened as a result. Should we choose this catastrophic consequences?

We should stop wasting our strength to play the exhaustive games. This is the best time to activate the ideals of Practical Benefits and Pragmatism, the philosophies of the new administration. Now is the time to adopt the North’s consistent slogan, “By and Among Ourselves,” as a common objective to overcome the crisis the two Koreas are facing.

Of course, maintaining justifiable stance is important. In the diplomatic negotiations or at war between two countries or two different people, there are many instances where justifiable stance itself might be as important as practical advantages. However, a fight for a justifiable stance among the same people with the same goal of reunification has absolutely no meaning. If both Koreas sincerely want the reunification, shouldn’t they be ready to let go of their justifiable stance or share of the profits for a greater cause?

Currently many countries are striving to promote the national interests to overcome the worldwide economic downturn. We should ask ourselves whether we are the only one going against the stream. Without understanding and accepting others, coexistence and shared prosperity are not possible. The slogan, “By and Among Ourselves (우리민족끼리),” is nothing but an empty talk when it disregards people’s interests. Once again, we urge that the North and South Korean authorities to resume unconditional inter-Korean talks, exchange programs, and cooperation.
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