August 24, 2009 11:43
A senior South Korean official on Sunday spoke of a "paradigm shift" in inter-Korean relations after President Lee Myung-bak met a senior North Korean delegation who extended their stay after paying their respects to the late former President Kim Dae-jung.
The Lee administration has charted a different course in North Korea policy compared to the previous two administrations under Kim and Roh Moo-hyun and intends to continue that way. "The previous administrations put priority on the exceptional nature of the inter-Korean relations and put the rules of normal international relations aside," he said. "They already grateful when North Korea just responded to requests for dialogue. That will no longer happen."
The remarks show that the Lee administration is determined to stick to principles in trying to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapon program. The fact that Lee said he would be willing to hold a summit if it can help denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula supports this view.
The "paradigm shift" was evident in the runup to the meeting. Seoul did not make it easy for the North Koreans to meet Lee after the North had initially informed not the South Korean government but a private channel, the Kim Dae Jung Peace Center, that the delegation was coming. Seoul insisted that the North use official government channels.
And although Kim Yang-gon, the director of the North's United Front Department, said he came with a message from North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, Seoul did not jump to arrange a visit to Cheong Wa Dae, and the North Korean delegates had to postpone their return and stay in Seoul for another day.
During the last two administrations, senior North Korean high ranking officials met the South Korean president eight times, and they never had to wait. Lee Jo-won, professor in politics and diplomacy at ChungAng University, said, "The key point is the reaction from North Korea to the changes in the South Korean government."
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