One year has passed since the South Korean government set in place the May 24th Measures, a response to the North Korean sinking of the Cheonan. In contrast with the Democratic Party and other leftist parties in South Korea, which have described the May 24th Measures as a new source of inter-Korean tension, the Lee administration believes the May 24th Measures have compelled North Korea to act more reasonably.
A high-ranking official from the Blue House explained, ““In the past, we were able to engage in dialogue at the same time as supplying North Korea with abundant rice and fertilizer aid. Now, however, authority in terms of inter-Korea relations and peace on the peninsula has been put back in our hands.”
On the other hand, the Democratic Party and fellow naysayers believe that the government’s ‘confrontational’ policies have actually caused inter-Korean relations to falter. There are some who blame the current administration’s uncompromising stance for having incited the artillery assault on Yeonpyeong Island last November.
Leftist parties and organizations held a press conference on May 24th to put this position, stating that, “The May 24 Measures were founded on the hastily completed interim announcements from the Cheonan investigation in order to raise the national security issue during the June 2nd local elections.” In order to allow inter-Korean relations to return to a good position, they went on to demand, the May 24th Measures be withdrawn.
Chung Ok Nim, a Grand National Party lawmaker, rejected this in an interview with The Daily NK yesterday, saying, “We can now see the distorted security logic of the opposition,” and adding, “In spite of the farfetchedness of their views, they continue to argue that the May 24th Measures are wrong for inter-Korean relations.”
Chung says she still believes what she said during last year’s June 2nd local elections, namely that there was a high chance the opposition was using the North Korean problem in order to win votes. “[The opposition party’s strategic offensive] was the main component in creating a misunderstanding in the people,” she asserted. “Because [opposition to the May 24 Measures] exists within the state, national security is itself now lacking.”
On the other hand, “Measures aimed at North Korea must be effective, but it seems that only opposing results are appearing. Instead of North Korea being punished, our businesses are being hurt,” was the contrasting view offered by Soon Min Song of the Democratic Party.
“The May 24th Measures only resulted in bringing China and North Korea closer together,” Soon went on, adding he ”doesn’t know where to start” trying to rectify the situation
However, economic statistics do not back Soon. Last year, inter-Korean commerce actually increased to $1.91 billion, a 13.9% increase on $1.67 billion in 2009. Moreover, in spite of the Yeonpyeong Island attacks, more people visited last year than in the year before.
Elsewhere, Song Young Sun, a lawmaker with another conservative group and national security expert, believes that the May 24th Measures were actually not enough. “North Korea’s provocations were very effective and the most strategic response is psychological warfare,” she said, finding the decision not to start loudspeaker broadcasts along the DMZ to be “an unfortunate aspect” of events.
In conclusion, “Those who oppose or believe that the May 24 Measures should stop are basically those who do not believe that North Korea is responsible for the Cheonan incident or otherwise entertain some doubts,” one North Korea expert said. “Going forward with basic rules for inter-Korean relations is important; these individuals are a dangerous faction treating these standards lightly.”
Another expert said he believes, “The Cheonan incident came about as a result of the former administration’s ‘Sunshine Policy’ and other reconciliatory policies, through which North Korea was given the wrong idea. The Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo Hyun administrations offered an unconditional aid policy, but we received in return a battle on the West Sea, nuclear tests, missile launches, and other forms of provocation. Basically, their contentions are based on false logic.”