Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Interview: Mr. Kim Sung-Hwan, Senior Secretary to the President for Foreign Affairs & National Security

The inauguration of Mr. Lee Myung-bak as President in February 2008 represented a significant shift in South Korea's foreign policy. Since then, the government has pursued a “pragmatic” foreign policy based on strengthening relationships with key regional powers and promoting conditional engagement with North Korea, while also enhancing South Korea’s role in the international community.

The seven point doctrine of the present administration can be characterized as: Complete denuclearization and opening of North Korea; Pragmatic diplomacy based on a national consensus; Strengthening of the ROK-U.S. alliance; Expansion of Asia diplomacy in partnership with other regional states to move toward the opening of an Asian era; Contribution to the global community as the world's 12th economy and a mature, responsible nation; Energy diplomacy to join the group of most advanced economic nations; and Cultural diplomacy to capitalize Korea's soft power through mutual opening and exchanges in the region and the world.
In an exclusive interview, Mr. Kim Sung-Hwan, Senior Secretary to the President for Foreign Affairs & National Security explained about the foreign policy orientation of the present government. Excerpts:

-The Lee Myung-bak administration is actively pursuing a foreign policy vision: “Global Korea”. In order to realize the vision, the administration has stepped up its efforts to contribute to global peace and prosperity with focus on easing financial difficulties, combating terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), climate change and other global challenges. Hosting a G20 summit in Seoul this November and strengthening its contributions to the international efforts to rebuild Haiti, Afghanistan and Iraq are good examples of the administration’s such efforts.

On North Korea, the administration is committed to building up mutual trust and common prosperity in inter-Korean relations through dialogues with a firm belief that the two Koreas should fully cooperate on a wide array of agenda including North Korea’s nuclear issue, not only on economic issues.
The Lee Myung-bak administration will continue to work with the international community to bear fruit in its efforts to advance the Global Korea vision built on what it has achieved.

-Despite the previous administrations’ efforts, as you pointed out,the inter-Korean relations did not see any significant improvement mainly due to the lack of North Korea’s cooperation. Particularly, the nuclear issue remains unresolved although the Republic of Korea, in cooperation with the international community, has tried to deal with the issue over the past two decades.

Considering this, the Lee Myung-bak administration places a top priority on the nuclear issues and persistently pursues the resolution of the issue through dialogues between the two Koreas and with other participating countries in the Six-Party Talks, which has been a main venue for negotiations. The administration’s initiative, the so-called “Grand Bargain”, is to address the nuclear issue in such a comprehensive way that North Korea will be able to get a broad range of benefits, ranging from economic assistance to security guarantee, once it makes a strategic decision to abandon its nuclear programs.

As President Lee puts it, peace has to be maintained to realize reconciliation and cooperation on the Korean Peninsula. The Republic of Korea and North Korea, as two directly involved parties of the Peninsula, should work together to address all pending issues, including the nuclear issue, through sincere and candid dialogue. The Lee administration will continue to seek ways to bring North Korea back to the dialogue table and to hammer out solutions on the pending issues in close cooperation and consultation with the international community.
-As the FTA provides a wider interface between the two sides, I am sure, the industries of Korea and Europe will be and must be more interconnected in all aspects of their activities. In additions, the FTA will also bring EU investors not only more opportunities but also better protection and effective safeguards. It is high time for EU investors to explore and expand their partnership with their counterparts in Korea. In case they should come across any room for further improvement, in terms of government regulations or local practices affecting transaction costs, any proposal or suggestion from business community is always welcomed by the Korean Government.