October 24, 2018 13:28
President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday signed into law a joint declaration drawn up by the leaders of the two Koreas at their third summit in September and a supplementary military agreement without submitting them for ratification to the National Assembly. But the declaration is largely a follow-up accord to the joint declaration announced at the first summit between Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in April, which the National Assembly has yet to ratify. Moon is blithely jumping the gun.
The government decided to forego National Assembly ratification because it felt that there is nothing in the agreements that could "impose a significant fiscal burden on the public." A cursory look indeed suggests that there may be no significant causes for fiscal expenditures. They merely call for a ground-breaking ceremony for the re-linking of inter-Korean railways and roads, talks to re-open the shuttered Kaesong Industrial Complex and cooperation on forestry. But actual construction to reconnect severed cross-border railways could cost up to W40 trillion, and the government is rushing into breaking ground before producing an exact cost estimate (US$1=W1,137). This suggests it wants to push the cross-border projects so far that the next government will find it difficult to halt them.
Opposition parties also pointed out that the military agreement falls into the category of an "agreement concerning national security," which requires National Assembly ratification under the Constitution. That is because expanding the no-fly zone around the military demarcation line and ending naval drills near the Northern Limit Line could have profound implications for South Korea's national security. One U.S. military expert who used to be a colonel said the expanded no-fly zones over the MDL would "benefit North Korea." The U.S. Forces Korea, which protects South Korea's borders together with domestic troops, is unhappy about the military agreement. Yet the Moon Jae-in administration is railroading the agreements into law simply because it can. It remains to be seen whether the National Assembly will take legal steps to determine the constitutionality of the latest moves.
What, at any rate, was the rush? There has been absolutely no progress in North Korean denuclearization as the North continues to refuse to hand over an inventory of its nuclear weapons and facilities or hold working-level talks with U.S. officials. But the South Korean government has already opened its chest of rewards, which should remain firmly locked until the North starts scrapping its nuclear weapons. If Seoul messes up the entire process, it could end up being seen as actually aiding and abetting North Korea in its ambitions to become a nuclear power.
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