Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

South Koreans Divided over Coziness with the North ; North Korean Officials Travel to Seoul Tomorrow to Begin Nuts-And- Bolts Talks on Implementing the Accord

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

South Koreans Divided over Coziness with the North ; North Korean Officials Travel to Seoul Tomorrow to Begin Nuts-And- Bolts Talks on Implementing the Accord

Article excerpt

South Koreans are divided over their historic handshake with North Korea.

On the one hand, South Korean President Kim Dae Jung's political enemies are traveling to Oslo next month to explain why Mr. Kim doesn't deserve to win the Nobel Peace Prize. His career as a fighter for democracy and Korean reconciliation is marred by his undemocratic rule and kowtowing to North Korea, they say.

On the other hand, the government is already revising school textbooks to include pictures of Kim clasping hands with North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il. The June 13-15 summit is portrayed as a turning point toward peacefully resolving a bitter half century of division.

Mixed feelings here about the North will only be resolved as the accord succeeds or fails to live up to its enormous promise of ending cold-war hostility on this divided peninsula. The tough work of implementing the agreement begins tomorrow, when top North Korean officials travel to Seoul for three days of talks.

Following the June summit, public opinion here toward North Korea improved dramatically. But views do vary widely. Nearly everyone counts the summit a success. Young people, university professors, and civic groups are particularly optimistic. To them, it took the bite out of restrictive anti-North laws and made it clear that the two Koreas could overcome conflict by focusing on their common heritage rather than the differences in their political systems.

Older people, businessmen, and soldiers - in fact the majority of Koreans - remain suspicious of North Korea and worry about ulterior motives. They want the North to apologize for the Korean War, and return some 200 prisoners of war (POWs) held for half a century, as well as more than 400 fishermen they abducted.

"Kim Dae Jung is giving too much to North Korea" for not broaching such topics, says Byun Yong Shik, an editor at the conservative Chosun Ilbo newspaper. First, the North ought to win the South's trust, among other ways, by eliminating a constitutional article espousing reunification under the North Korean system, and no longer demanding money from anyone who wants to do business there, he says. …

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