News / Asia

South Korean President A Pragmatist on Pyongyang, Says Analyst

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak speaks at a meeting to report on a Ministry of Justice operation at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, Dec. 20, 2010.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak speaks at a meeting to report on a Ministry of Justice operation at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, Dec. 20, 2010.

South Korea's president is demanding that North Korea dismantle its nuclear program in 2011 and he says resuming the six-party talks are the only way forward.

President Lee Myung-bak has previously insisted that Pyongyang show it is serious about nuclear disarmament before it is allowed to resume the talks with China, Russia, Japan, the United States and the two Koreas. But it has been a tense 2010 on the Korean peninsula ever since March, when a South Korea war ship exploded, killing 46 seamen. The North denied any involvement, but South Korea, backed by international investigators, blamed Pyongyang. Last month, a North Korean artillery barrage on South Korea's Yeongpyeong island killed four people, and prompted a series of massive military exercises involving South Korean and U.S. forces.

VOA spoke with Peter Beck, a long-time North Korea observer at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations.  

Is President Lee Myung-bak changing his approach with North Korea by abandoning his demand that they first demonstrate they are dismantling their nuclear program before the six-party talks can resume?

"I think President Lee has been falsely painted as a hardliner when it comes to North Korea. I've known him from his days in self-imposed exile in the United States and as mayor and he is a businessman. He is a pragmatist. He is not a hardliner. I think this just shows his pragmatic side. At the end of the day, we don't have any appealing options other than to negotiate with North Korea and I think it's an acknowledgment of that reality. It is coming sooner than I would've expected given that the South has now suffered two sucker-punches by North Korea. But there really is no choice but to talk to the North."

Is the South truly ready to sit down and talk with the North after last month's artillery attack on Yeongpyeong island that killed four people and the sinking of the South Korean Navy ship in March that killed 46 sailors?

"There has to be a certain amount of outrage because what North Korea did was outrageous. But once people cool down, I think there is a realization that waiting for someone to di,  or waiting for a change in North Korea is not a policy, it's wishful thinking.  And I think he [Lee Myung-bak] is the first to recognize that. We've seen that South Korea is taking a resolute stand and trying to beef up its military to try to do better when the next sucker-punch comes. North Korea has learned that the only way they have a chance of prevailing in a conflict is if they have the element of surprise. They will try to do that again and the bottom line is it doesn't matter if they lose troops in response. So conflict is a no-win situation for South Korea. Even if they kill hundreds or thousands of North Koreans, it's not going to solve the North Korea question."

The North's political leadership says it is focused on boosting its economy in the coming year.  You've written about how North Korea's command economy collapsed in the 1990's and has been replaced by hundreds of informal markets where people sell home grown vegetables, house-hold items and Chinese consumer products. Is the North Korean leadership taking a lesson from China, where the government has allowed market forces to work?

"I think the markets are taking root in North Korea in spite of the government. Although there are forces at play, market forces and technology that are seeping into North Korea, I don't think North Korea is ready to take China's path.  But millions of North Koreans have taken matters into their own hands and have recognized if they wait for food to come from the state, they will starve. So even with the disastrous currency reforms that North Korea launched a year ago, markets seem to have recovered, based on the reports of visitors. "

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid