NEPSNet Special Report-남북한 정상회담개최

2000-04-14 00:06
***** SPECIAL REPORT *****

April 11, 2000

The following article is by Bradley Martin, deputy editor of Asia Times.
It is available online at:

Martin examines the reasons behind the DPRK-ROK summit agreement announced
on April 10 and suggests that the DPRK has timed the announcement to give a
"blatant election endorsement" to ROK President Kim Dae-jung's party. The
article was originally published in the April 12, 2000 issue of Asia Times.



Being able to point to South Korea as an implacable enemy has been an
essential element in the North Korean regime's control of its people. Thus
it is significant that on Monday, practically on the eve of Thursday's
South Korean National Assembly elections, Pyongyang blatantly endorsed the
soft-line policy of South Korean President Kim Dae-jung.

For whatever more may come of it, the timing more than suggests that
Monday's mutual announcement of plans for a June summit in Pyongyang
amounts first and foremost to a political endorsement of Kim's party and
its "sunshine policy." The agreement for President Kim to meet North Korean
Great Leader Kim Jong-il came in a Beijing session on Saturday, by which
time Seoul observers were saying the election was too close to call.
Clearly both sides hope the announcement will give Kim Dae-jung's Millenium
Democratic Party the push it needs to achieve a majority in the national
legislature so its policies can be continued.

Alternatives to Kim Dae-jung's party would provide far more convincing
bogeymen for the use of northern propagandists. The South's chief
opposition Grand National Party is highly critical of Kim Dae-jung's use of
aid to lure North Korea into shifting its emphasis from military
preparations to economic reconstruction. "Keep it at home," opposition
representatives repeatedly urge. "South Koreans need the help more."

Of course the fact that North Korea at the moment has decided to endorse
soft-line South Korean candidates doesn't mean it has said a permanent
farewell to enmity and militarism. Long-time Pyongyang-watchers know that
the northern leadership keeps various strategies for interim survival and
ultimate victory going at once and shifts back and forth among them as it
sees advantage in doing so. In this regard, note that the North's version
of the announcement differed from the South's in saying Kim Dae-jung's
visit to Pyongyang would be at his request, instead of at the invitation of
Kim Jong-il. Enemies should not be made to look like sought-after guests.

But the summit announcement almost certainly does mean that the North has
looked over the possibilities for fixing its busted economy and realized
that it can hardly be done without the participation of its estranged but
filthy rich brethren south of the Demilitarized Zone. The giant Hyundai
conglomerate, with its tour cruises from South Korea to the North's scenic
Mt Kumgang, has given Pyongyang a scrumptuous sample of just how much help
the South can provide if relations improve.

And the basic strategy embodied in both Kim Dae-jung's sunshine policy and
the South Korean-American-Japanese "Perry process," named after former US
Defense Secretary William Perry, is to combine aid with credible assurances
of domestic non-interference to hook Pyongyang on peaceful coexistence. The
eventual goal is an end to the military threat Pyongyang poses to the South
and, with its development of weapons of mass destruction, other parts of
the world.

The cynicism of South Korean opposition politicians is understandable
enough. (And there clearly was a calculated risk that the announcement
could backfire with voters, many of whom are also cynical.) After all, the
two sides have gotten this far before only to see the summit fall through
even before it happened.

In 1994 former US President Jimmy Carter arranged for then South Korean
President Kim Young-sam to meet then North Korean President Kim Il-sung.
But then Kim Il-sung died, and his country retreated into mourning. Kim
Young-sam buckled to domestic pressures, insulting the dead leader's
successor son by refusing to send a delegation to mourn the "war criminal".
End of summit plans.

Many, many, many lesser initiatives have also come to naught over the
decades. Is there anything different this time? There is, and that
difference provides some grounds for hope that something may eventually
come of the new initiative. The difference is that the North's economy,
after years of famine caused by faulty policies combined with natural
disasters, is in far worse shape both absolutely and relative to South
Korea's than it was when earlier initiatives failed.

No one in Pyongyang can be unaware that the economy has to be fixed. But
Kim Jong-il keeps blaming fall guys at home, ministers and other high-level
officials who try to use the Stalinist policies Kim inherited from his
father. Predictably, they always fail. Some foreign intelligence sources
believe that the current Great Leader's repeated executions and banishments
of thus-failed high-level economic officials have begun to backfire,
causing other officials to fear that they may be next - and to reflect upon
where the blame really lies.

Kim Jong-il is an autocrat but perhaps he realizes that the elite circles
just beneath him will not forever ignore the fact that the emperor,
policy-wise, has no clothes. While it would be too much to expect him to
leap into Chinese- or Vietnamese-style reform and opening, he may view this
as a major opportunity to make some smaller changes and ensure his
longer-term survival.