Can Park Geun-hye's N.Korea Policy Work?

      August 24, 2011 13:54

      Park Geun-hye, the former head of the ruling Grand National Party, wrote in the U.S. magazine Foreign Affairs that it is now time for "a new kind of Korea" and proposed a "trustpolitk" or policy of trust, and an "alignment policy" with the communist country.  

      She claims that a lack of trust is the basic cause of difficulty in sincere reconciliation between South and North Korea and that what is necessary is "trustpolitik" which allows both Koreas to implement what is expected by each side according to international rules. "Alignment policy" signifies a balance in exchanges between South and North Korean security, as well as a balance between inter-Korean dialogue and international cooperation, she wrote.

      This suggests she would pursue a different path from the Lee Myung-bak administration, which has yet to achieve concrete progress in inter-Korean relations. Referring to the "Sunshine Policy" of rapprochement with North Korea of the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations, Park said that their view was that North Korea would abandon its hostile strategy toward the South if it continued to aid the North, but that turned out to be wishful thinking, while the incumbent administration also failed to get North Korea to make meaningful changes through pressure alone. The "alignment policy" Park has in mind seems to aim at striking a balance between the two.

      Most of the "trustpolitik" Park talks about involves commitments that are expected of North Korea, and it is uncertain whether the North will welcome it. "For more than half a century, North Korea has blatantly disregarded international norms," she said. "We are by all means to show North Korea that they are to pay a price for their provocative attacks." She also wrote that "trustpolitik" is not about moving on to the next stage due to political convenience, but must be applied incrementally based on verifiable actions. The comments reflected her desire to maintain Seoul's quid-pro-quo strategy in negotiations, which has infuriated Pyongyang.

      Park's approach to the North is a method in which provocations invite stronger responses and approaching negotiations with a very open stance. In other words she intends to respond more harshly to North Korean provocations, such as the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island last year. "If North Korea launches another military strike against the South, Seoul must respond immediately to ensure that Pyongyang understands the costs of provocation," Park said. "Conversely, if North Korea takes steps towards genuine reconciliation, such as reaffirming its commitment to existing agreements, then the South should match its efforts." She cited various possible inter-Korean economic projects as ways to do so. But the idea of offering huge economic support to the North in exchange for refraining from provocations and abandoning its nuclear weapons is also contained in the incumbent administration's "grand bargain" idea, which has signally failed to appeal to the North.

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