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North Korea: Witness to Transformation

Ahn Cheol-soo: Exit and Party Views on North Korea

by | November 24th, 2012 | 07:00 am

Two days ago, Ahn Cheol-soo called a hastily-convened press conference to announce that he would bow out in favor of DUP candidate Moon Jae-in. The drama of dueling liberal candidates recalled the infamous failure of Kim Dae Jung and Kim Young Sam to agree on a single candidacy in 1987 and the more successful merger talks prior to the 2002 presidential election between Roh Moo-hyun and independent Chung Mong-joon. Although some believed that Ahn would have given Park Geun Hye a closer run for her money, parties do matter and Ahn lacked the DUP machine. Nonetheless, the assumption that Ahn voters will simply go to Moon is almost certainly misguided; this will be a very close election.

We have been following the South Korean candidates’ views on North Korea, and the common theme is distancing from the LMB status quo; the only issue appears to be how far to move to find the electoral sweet spot. We provided a summary and full text of a recent speech by Park Geun-hye, noting that incorporated a pastiche of containment and engagement ideas. We also posted a speech by Moon Jae-in. Back in August, Marc Noland posted on a new campaign book by Ahn Cheol-soo.

Thanks to Dan Wirtz over at the National Committee on North Korea, and the translation work of Stella Park, we now have a pithy statement of strategy from the now-defunct Ahn campaign (NCNK link here and original Korean here). With NCNK permission, we reproduce it below, with the usual caveats about the translation. Although it may appear to be of only historical interest at this point, it in fact represents a particular type of independent that is not saddled with the particular DJ-Roh legacy. Nonetheless, it is clearly more engagement than not. Several points were of interest:

  • The statement talks about working “simultaneously” to improve North-South relations, negotiate a peace regime and address the nuclear issue. This would be a break from the strategy of seeking to address the nuclear issue prior to progress on the wider North-South issues and replacing the armistice.
  • Rather than backing down from the NLL issue—which we have addressed in recent posts—Ahn casts the West Sea as posing opportunities for confidence building measures, including a revival of the joint fishing zone idea if the North accepts the NLL.
  • We see a strong return of engagement ideas, not only at the economic level but in proposals to revive the institutional machinery for North-South relations that characterized the DJ and Roh periods.
  • The text mentions human rights and humanitarian issues, but is curiously more vague in these brief bullets than in other parts of the plan.

Ahn Cheol-soo’s Plan for Peace and Joint Prosperity on the Korean Peninsula

November 8, 2012 (Press Release)

While inter-Korean relations have hit rock bottom under the Lee Myung-bak administration, the North Korean nuclear situation has worsened and military tensions have increased, aggravating the overall situation in Northeast Asia. The need for normalized inter-Korean relations and the realization of peace and joint prosperity on the Korean Peninsula is urgent, and we need to start taking action now.

To achieve peace and joint prosperity in Korean Peninsula, we need to meet the following goals:

First, we need to create a virtuous cycle of improving inter-Korea relations, solving the North Korean nuclear issue, and establishing a peace regime.

Second, we need to establish the foundation for unification by making progress in inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation.

Third, we need to pursue a “blue ocean” economic strategy, realizing the untapped potential of the regional economy.

To achieve these three goals, I will promote and fulfill the following six strategies:

1)      Work simultaneously for improving inter-Korea relations, the establishment of a Korean Peninsula peace regime, and a solution to the North Korea nuclear issue.

a)      Resume inter-Korean talks and establish a hotline between North and South.

b)      Prepare an institutional framework for peace and coexistence on the Korean Peninsula.

c)      Realize the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through a comprehensive approach.

2)      Establish a West Sea peace settlement and institutionalize inter-Korean trust-building.

a)      Open a direct phone line between the North’s Southwest Front Line Command and the South’s Northwest Island Defense Command.

b)      Restore the June 4, 2004 agreement on a military hotline, which has been a dead letter.

c)      On the condition that North Korea recognizes the Northern Limit Line, discuss a joint fishing area in the West Sea, including negotiations on resource management and operational issues for South Korean boats fishing in Northern waters or agreed-upon public waters.

d)     Establish an “Inter-Korean Dispute Resolution Committee” as a permanent dispute settlement body.

3)      Develop a unification process and build a foundation for unification.

a)      Restore, develop, and institutionalize the steering committee established by the June 15th Joint Declaration.

b)      Gather more diverse ideas on unification by reorganizing the “Unification Advisory Council” into a “Unification Strategic Planning Committee.”

4)      Promote practical solutions to humanitarian and human rights issues.

a)      Focus on solving humanitarian issues.

b)      Make efforts for the practical improvement of human rights in North Korea.

c)      Protect the human rights of North Korean refugees and expand tailored resettlement programs for them.

5)      Develop a national consensus and bipartisan cooperation on North Korea Policy.

a)      Seek the ratification of important inter-Korean agreements through the National Assembly.

b)      Promote a national consensus about the basic direction of North Korea policy.

c)      Pragmatically adhere to the Development of Inter-Korean Relations Act.

6) Revitalize inter-Korean economic cooperation and open a new era in the regional economy.

a)      Seek new markets for small and medium-sized businesses by opening new opportunities in the regional economy.

b)      Create a stable investment environment by institutionalizing inter-Korean economic cooperation.

c)      Secure new growth engines by establishing economic blocs along the West Sea Rim and the East Sea Rim.

d)     Build a complex regional distribution network combining surface and maritime transportation.

e)      Construct a Silk Road for regional energy and resource infrastructure.

f)       Promote agricultural cooperation with the North to revive the inter-Korean agricultural industry.