OVERCOMING A NATIONAL CRISIS,THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA RISES UP AGAIN A Year of Trials and Challenges for President Kim Dae-jung
February 1999




By aggressively pushing the Four-Party Meeting with North Korea, the U.S and China and interaction and cooperation with Pyongyang under the three principles of the policy toward North Korea, the country has earned enthusiastic support in the international community for its Sunshine Policy, and laid a firm foundation for settlement of peace on the Korean Peninsula. Thanks to the policy of separating economic affairs from politics, the country was able to see, among other forms of interaction, the remarkable opening of Mt. Kumgangsan to South Korean tourists last year.


(1) The basic framework for North Korea policies was established

The Administration has firmly established three main principles of its North Korea policy: First, no armed provocation by the North will be tolerated; second, the South is not interested in absorbing the North or hurting it; third, the South will push reconciliation and cooperation with the North.

To this end, national security will be continuously strengthened because it is the basis for any enduring South-North relationship. A national consensus is important in executing Government policies. The Administration also believes that the reunification process should be basically settled by Seoul and Pyongyang instead of third parties, and this position is actively supported by the third parties concerned. Initially, cooperation and exchanges between the two will be conducted on the principle of peaceful coexistence and mutual benefit. Cooperation and reconciliation are bound to influence the North's attitudes in a positive way.

(2) An aggressive push for South-North dialogue, cooperation and mutual exchanges

After the Government of the People took over in February, 1998, high-level South-North talks were held in Beijing in April, the first in three years and nine months. South-North generals meetings have been held three times in Panmumjom. Representatives of the national Red Cross societies from both Koreas met in March to discuss the delivery of relief goods to Pyongyang. The two sides decided to send 50,000 tons of grain to the North, the third shipment in recent years.

The Government of the People proposed a summit meeting and exchange of envoys to promote the implementation of the Basic Agreement in President Kim Dae-jung's inaugural and March First Independence Movement speeches. On August 15, 1998, the Government also proposed to dispatch a Presidential envoy to Pyongyang and establish a standing committee for South-North dialogue.

The Government announced measures to revitalize South-North economic cooperation on April 30, 1998. It has also simplified procedures for travel to North Korea. Of some 40 regulations concerning travel to the North, 14 were abolished and 15 were improved.

The number of South Koreans entering North Korea has drastically increased. Besides the South Korean tourists visiting Mt. Kumgangsan, 3,716 applicants in 387 cases have been approved. Of those, 3,317 people in 341 cases actually have visited North Korea during the past year. This compares with a total number of 2,407 people who travelled to the North during the 1987-1997 period. During the nine-year period of the previous Administrations, 6,623 applicants in 4,567 cases were approved for contact with North Koreans, but only 1,890 in 856 cases actually met the intended persons.

The approval rate of applicants in 1998 was 340 percent higher than the previous year, and the rate of actual visits increased by 160 percent. During 1998, 10,554 South Koreans visited the picturesque Kumgangsan in the North in 23 seaborne cruise lines.

(3) Reunions of separated families and humanitarian support

The Government has placed priority on reunion of families separated during and after the Korean War. Travel applications for that purpose totaled 3,726 during 1998, exceeding 3,302, the total for the previous nine years. Answers were supplied to 377 South Korean inquiries about whether their relatives in the North were still alive; the total represents a 230 percent increase over 1997. One hundred and eight citizens actually met with their North Korean relatives, a 170 percent increase. One of them visited his relatives officially, the first such occasion.

The Administration is diligently revising related laws to help North Koreans who defect to the South. The implementation regulations to the Law Governing North Korean Refugees were revised on December 31, 1998. Operational rules of the Council for North Korean Refugees have been set in motion.

Humanitarian support for the North is continuing. During the year, the Government sent US$11 million of relief goods to Pyongyang through the World Food Program (WFP) and took measures to make it easier for the private sector to send relief goods to the North in March 18 and September 18, 1998. The South Korean Red Cross has donated US$20.85 million worth of goods to Pyongyang.

(4) National consensus is important in pushing North Korea policies

Since a national consensus is important in approaching reunification issues, the Government is encouraging all kinds of organizations to express their views. One such effort was to help organize Minhwahyop (the National Council for National Reconciliation). Related Government agencies are running home pages to promote reunification and debate issues. In a series of "electronic public hearings," 25,000 citizens expressed their opinions in four Internet sessions.

The role of the Advisory Council on Democratic and Peaceful Unification (ACDPU) is becoming more important as a unified voice on South-North relations is needed. During the last year, 5,486 members were newly appointed to the ACDPU for the second time in the Council's current eighth term. The Council made a series of presentations on the environment for reunification to the general public, attended by 15,662 people. Similar lectures and discussions totaling 1,841 were given to 900,788 secondary and college students as well as community residents.

Last year was very rewarding for the Government in that its reunification policies got active regional and international support through President Kim's summit talks with leaders of the U.S., China and Japan and the ASEM, APEC and ASEAN leaders. In addition, a major symposium on reunification was held in San Francisco from August 17-24, with the participation of 140 scholars and specialists from nine countries.

Unification Policies of Present and Past Administrations


Government of the people

Past Administrations

Basic Principles

Against absorbing the North;
For proceeding gradually


For absorbing the North

Manner of Execution

Policies Consistent

Simultaneous pursuit of Four-Party Meeting (ROK , DPRK, PRC, and U.S.)and bilateral talks

Policies changed frequently

Depended on Four-Party Meeting


South-North Exchanges

Regulations eased

Active people exchanges(3,317 South
Koreans visited the North in 1998 which is 1.4 times the previous eight-year period)

Nine cases of economic exchanges; five cultural exchanges ; Mt. Kumgangsan tourism Started



People exchanges restricted


Up to 1997, there were six economic exchanges and 3 cultural exchanges


DPRK-U.S. Rapprochement

Supports it actively

Supports package deal on all pending issues

Lukewarm toward it


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