South Korea plans to build inter-Korean trust by providing humanitarian aid to the impoverished communist country and by engaging in constructive dialogue, President Park Geun-hye’s unification minister nominee said Tuesday.
Ryoo Kihl-jae, 54, said in a written reply forwarded to the parliament ahead of his confirmation hearing set for Wednesday that no preconditions will be set for providing aid, indicating that the new administration wants to engage Pyongyang in dialogue to resolve all outstanding issues.
The University of North Korean Studies professor said aid must be kept separate from political developments and Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. The international community is currently deliberating what actions can be taken to penalize the North for its third nuclear test on Feb. 12. The country also detonated atomic devices in 2006 and 2009.
|Unification Minister-nominee Ryoo Kihl-jae (Yonhap News)|
“Resolution of the North’s nuclear ambitions and inter-Korean confidence are not preconditions for talks or the offering of aid,” he stressed, making clear that humanitarian assistance is key to implementing the “trustpolitik” doctrine espoused by the chief executive. He added that even if the North does not take the first step to show it wants to change, Seoul can still pursue its trust building effort.
The doctrine championed by Park, who was sworn in on Feb. 25 as the country’s first female president, calls for active engagement with the North, while at the same time standing resolute against all forms of provocation.
He also said Seoul wants to arrange reunions for family members separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.
On the possibility of Seoul providing rice to the North, which had been cut off under the previous Lee Myung-bak administration, Ryoo said he could look at what kind of support can be given after he takes office, although pointing out government support will be determined by positive developments in cross-border relations and public opinion.
The North Korean scholar said that in non-political exchanges, Seoul wants to expand contact in the social and cultural spheres to promote trust building.
He said that if such “low level” trust is built up gradually, government-to-government negotiations can be arranged to make it possible for the two sides to follow through on past promises in such areas as the dismantling of the North’s nuclear weapons and large-scale economic cooperation.
“At present there is not a lot of trust, but there is no need to be overly pessimistic,” Ryoo said. He also hinted that the new administration wants to move away from the dichotomous thinking of either pushing forward engagement policies regardless of what actions are taken by Pyongyang or focusing on sanctions. He said this approach can allow Seoul to strive for balance in enhancing national security while engaging in constructive inter-Korean exchanges. He said the same balance is needed to effectively engage the North while at the same time working with the rest of the world to handle Pyongyang’s provocations.
The minister nominee, meanwhile, emphasized that the North must halt it provocative actions and some progress needs to be made on the nuclear issue for the incumbent administration’s trust building doctrine to make headway. (Yonhap News)