Will “Trustpolitik” bring a Thaw? by Aidan Foster-Carter

[CanKor Brain Trust member Aidan Foster-Carter reviews North-South Korea relations over the past year and prospects for the coming year in this article written for Comparative Connections, a Triannual E-Journal on East Asian Bilateral Relations published by CSIS, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, dated 14 January 2013. The first two sections of this 10-page article are reproduced here. For the remaining sections, whose sub-titles we add below, plus a chronology of North-South relations over the past two months, please follow the link to the complete article on the CSIS website.  –CanKor]

South Korea-North Korea Relations 2012-2013

Park Geun-Hye (Photo by Associated Press)

Park Geun-Hye (Photo by Associated Press)

Kim Jong Un (Photo by REUTERS)

Kim Jong Un (Photo by REUTERS)

Writing as a new year begins it seems apt to look forward as much as back. If the past four months saw little movement on inter-Korean relations, it is hardly surprising. South Korea’s current president (since 2008), Lee Myung-bak, is detested by the North – but he is on the way out. Formally, Lee’s term of office ends on Feb. 25, but the way the electoral cycle works in Seoul – presidents are allowed only a single five-year stint – has rendered him a lame duck for the past year, as attention shifted to the hard-fought race to succeed him. In that contest, despite deep overall ideological rivalries, the one certainty was that Seoul’s policy towards Pyongyang will change going forward. Both major candidates, as well as the independent progressive Ahn Cheol-soo, who made much of the running before eventually withdrawing, had promised to end Lee’s hard line and try to mend fences with the North. With her victory, the task of defining that changed policy falls to Park Geun-hye.

Fences to mend

That said, the detail among the candidates differed substantially. In a useful service, the [US] National Committee on North Korea (NCNK) – whose website is a valuable and perhaps insufficiently known resource generally – put together summaries of the candidates’ positions on the Northern question. The most radical was Moon Jae-in of the opposition Democratic United Party (DUP), who in effect was ready to resume and deepen the “Sunshine” policy practiced for a decade (1998-2007) by the late Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun. Moon, who served as Roh’s chief of staff, went so far as to advocate an inter-Korean economic union – complete with its own five-year plan. This also would have included a Korean Peninsula Infrastructure Development Organization: a name surely suggestive of the now sadly defunct Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), which did much to lay the foundations for more robust North-South cooperation. Read the rest of this entry »

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