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2008/08/07 11:02 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 15 (August 7, 2008)

   *** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 1)

Seoul Adopts 'Coexistence and Coprosperity' North Korea Policy

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The South Korean government has announced its official "coexistence and coprosperity" North Korea policy title that will be used for the next five years under the Lee Myung-bak administration.

   The Unification Ministry said on July 31 that the official name of the North Korea policy guidelines was made when the new administration took office in late February. But its announcement was delayed, it said, due to the government's emphasis on President Lee's campaign promises to denuclearize the communist North, open its society and make it economically viable.

   Under the campaign promises, Lee has sought "denuclearization, opening and US$3,000," meaning Seoul will help North Korea attain a per capita income of $3,000 within the decade that it denuclearizes and adopts an open policy for its society and markets. But North Korea has branded the Seoul policy vision as anti-unification, even labeling it a declaration of war against the North.

   The roughly-translated term of "coexistence and coprosperity" is comparable to former President Kim Dae-jung's "sunshine policy" of engaging North Korea through reconciliation and cooperation, and his successor Roh Moo-hyun's policy for peace and prosperity, also through engagement.

   Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyoun explained the new policy guidelines were already reported to President Lee at the ministry's March policy briefing, and its main theme was contained in the presidential speech delivered to the newly inaugurated parliament last month.

   Saying the new policy has the objective of transcending reconciliation and cooperation between the divided Koreas, Kim added the policy has "the philosophy of elevating the inter-Korean relations to develop after the stages of military hostilities to cooperative relations, and then to the stage of "coexistence and coprosperity." The spokesman said at present, "coexistence and coprosperity" are the most appropriate words that reflect the wishes of the people.

   He added that the vision of $3000 is a tool to attain the objective of the new title, adding the vision will have to be supplemented and developed continuously so it can bear fruit in the end. Kim said that North Korea's humanitarian issues will be handled with Seoul's strong determination to resolve them through dialogue.

   Still, the government's new North Korea policy has yet to be accompanied by detailed guidelines on each inter-Korean issue and global tasks related to North Korea. Experts said that the new policy, therefore, is not a shift in the government's basic North Korea policy, which first places emphasis on denuclearization and the improvement of the North's dismal human rights situation.

   Other analysts said that the government's announcement of the policy is an appeasement gesture toward Pyongyang. Inter-Korean relations have gone from bad to worse since Lee's inauguration, particularly with the recent shooting death of a South Korean tourist in the North.

   According to other sources, the policy advocates for Korean unification to be achieved under "liberal democracy." The policy is a major departure from the stance taken by the previous Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations, which focused more on the peaceful coexistence of the two Koreas under their respective political and economic systems.

   A government official said, "Inter-Korean exchanges and aid to Pyongyang, promised (while) … North Korea's nuclear issue remained unsolved and the North showed fewer-than-expected changes, were not good enough to muster public consensus and support."

   President Lee pledges a tougher policy toward the North, demanding more reciprocity from the communist neighbor. He said his government would review every inter-Korean accord and put big-budget programs that financially burden South Korean taxpayers in the backseat until the domestic economy is revived.

   Amid strained inter-Korean relations, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on July 11 proposed that the Koreas immediately resume dialogue on the denuclearization of North Korea, implementation of existing inter-Korean summit agreements and cross-border humanitarian cooperation.

   In an address at the opening session of the new parliament, Lee stressed that his government is willing to engage in serious consultations with North Korea on how to implement existing inter-Korean agreements, including the joint declaration on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula of 1991, the South-North Joint Declaration of June 15, 2000 and the Oct. 4, 2007 summit declaration between the leaders of the two Koreas. North Korea spurned the president's proposals. On July 13, North Korea dismissed President Lee's proposal for the full resumption of inter-Korean dialogue, calling the offer "rhetorical fraud," according to a North Korean newspaper.

   Rodong Sinmun, organ of the North's Workers' Party, criticized Lee's National Assembly address, claiming, "There is nothing new" and that it is "not worth mentioning, as (Lee) only repeated what his subordinates have been saying."

   On Aug. 4, the North again claimed that the policy of "coexistence and coprosperity" is no change from the Lee administration's "anti-unification policy." "Without clearly stating his position on the June 15 Joint Declaration and the October 4 Declaration, Lee is attempting to evade (the recent agreements) by mingling all the past agreements together," said the Choson Sinbo, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper published in Japan.