North Korea has carried out its third nuclear test. On Feb. 12, North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency printed a report, stating that the country’s national defense and science sector had successfully conducted a third underground nuclear test in its test site. The South Korean government and international community have been blaming the country and warned the danger of its consequences. Also, they point that this test is the game changer and danger for our national security and the peace of Northeast Asia.
However, when it comes to the topic of how to deal with North Korea, the conservatives and liberals in South Korea have been continuing the useless political and ideological disputes. The former point out that the Sunshine Policy, the foreign policy of South Korea toward North Korea from 1998 until 2008, was less effective to national security and peaceful coexistence with North Korea. They blame the two liberal former presidents, Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, for their naive idea of humanitarian aid to the North, criticizing that Pyongyang diverted the money and aid to nuclear weapons.
On the other hand, liberals believe engaging with North Korea is the most feasible option for mending inter-Korean relations, including the dismantlement of its nuclear program. Also, they criticize the former President Lee Myung-bak’s tough stance against North Korea made negative effects on the continuously improving inter-Korea relationship.
It is true that the efficiency of old policies, both moderated and hard-line policy toward North Korea, is being questioned. The Sunshine policy did not change the arms buildup of North Korea. The hard-line policy toward North Korea did not solve the cold relationship with Pyongyang. What is the problem? The government should change its point of view on North Korea from an ideological perspective to the conception of more realistic and consistent policies.
The policies toward North Korea have always depended on each government’s ideology. The liberal administrations carried out the moderate policy; on the contrary, conservative ones had the tough stance toward North Korea. I agree with the necessity of ideological and political principle about policies toward North Korea. However, the policies so far have been useless and far-fetched from reality. Also, the inconsistent directions of policies made the effective international cooperation difficult.
President Park Geun-hye officially launched her administration on Feb. 25. For the national security of South Korea and the peace of Northeast Asia, especially in a bid to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, it is essential to maintain a balanced approach and consistent direction. Park’s policies toward North Korea should be far more flexible and elaborate than those of her predecessors, on which the fate of the Korean Peninsula in the next five years depends.