Seoul Needs Effective Strategy for Inter-Korean Dialogue

      January 03, 2011 13:02

      North Korea in a New Year's editorial said tensions with South Korea must be defused with the South scrapping its "confrontational" policies that are "opposed to reunification" and urged Seoul to create an atmosphere of dialogue and cooperation. It takes some nerve to make such demands without even an apology for the attacks on the Navy corvette Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island.

      North Korea has made several overtures to South Korea since the start of the Lee Myung-bak administration. It suddenly sought an inter-Korean summit in the summer of 2009 after test-firing long-range missiles in April and July and conducting a second nuclear test in May that year. In March 2010, after the two Koreas began secret attempts to realize an inter-Korean summit, North Korea sank the Cheonan.

      When the Cheonan attack led to further international isolation and criticism, North Korea proposed reunions of families separated by the Korean War in August and military talks and September, only to attack Yeonpyeong in November killing innocent civilians. The first lesson the South Korean public learned from the attacks was that overtures of dialogue by North Korea do not mean that its provocations will cease.

      As it did last year, North Korea vowed in its New Year's message to spur growth in the light industry and stressed that agriculture is the "lifeline" to resolve the country's food shortage. In other words, the economic situation in the North is not improving. In these conditions it will be impossible for the regime to ensure a smooth transfer of power from Kim Jong-il to his third son Jong-un, while achieving its goal of becoming a "powerful and prosperous nation" by 2012.

      The biggest task of the South Korean government this year is to prevent military provocations by North Korea and apply pressure to its weak points so that the North will have to go into talks with the South sincerely rather than just to wheedle concessions out of the South. Seoul should throw away its old approach of letting North Korea call the shots when it comes to the timing and location of talks and come up with a new strategy.

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