South Koreas President-elect Park Geun-hye signaled today the
tough policy toward North Korea that shes likely to pursue when she
embarks on her five-year term as president in February.
She began the day after winning the presidential election by
visiting the national cemetery, bowing before the grave of her
father, Park Chung-hee, the long-ruling dictator who was
assassinated by his intelligence chief in 1979.
I will open up a new era of change and reform, she scrawled in
the visitors book, but soon she left no doubt she would mingle calls
for inter-Korean dialogue with a firm stance against compromise.
North Koreas launch of a long-range rocket last week showed how
grave the security reality really is, she said at her party
headquarters after the visit to the cemetery. Yes, she says she
wants to open talks with North Korea but she also vowed to keep her
promise of a new era of strong national security. Similarly, while
calling for peace and reconciliation in Northeast Asia, she placed
priority on dealing with the security reality.
Though Ms. Park is not as hardline as outgoing President Lee
Myung-bak, in the view of analysts, she is still not going to revert
to the Sunshine policy of reconciliation espoused by two Korean
presidents before Mr. Lees election five years ago.
At the very least, South Korea will not funnel funds to support
weapons programs with which North Korea will threaten the country
that defends South Korea, says Lee Sung-yoon, professor at the
Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, in Boston,
Thats a reference to the hundreds of thousands of tons of food
and fertilizer that South Korea shipped annually to North Korea
during the era of the Sunshine policy. Moon Jae-in, Parks liberal
foe in Wednesdays election, had promised to resume the shipments.
She is under no illusions about Pyongyang, says Nicholas
Eberstadt at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. If she
can expound and implement a coherent policy for reducing the North
Korean threat while advancing the cause of Korean unification, that
would be a great service to her countrymen and to the world.
David Straub, former senior US diplomat in Seoul and now at
Stanford, says Park "wants to give food aid to North Koreans and
make another effort to engage North Korea." If that doesn't work,
he predicts, "She will deal with North Korea in a firm and
Firmness under North Korean threats is seen as essential. In
principle she will be tough on North Korea, says Cho Gab-je, a
conservative editor who often comments on policy issues. She will
have some flexibility on policy, he says, but she will not follow
the line of the Sunshine policy.
The North Korea challenge
At the same time, North Korea is expected to challenge her,
militarily and rhetorically. They usually try to test a new
president, says Choi Jin-wook, a senior official at the Korea
Institute of National Unification. They might make provocations
before or after her inauguration. …