The sunshine policy came in the shadow of the controversy over North Korea’s missile and nuclear program. Bush never spoke to Sunshine Presidents Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo Hyun, who both died in 2009, Roh on his own after a corruption scandal.
3: Storm from several edges
All two years before, in 2007, the South Koreans’ patience with the sunshine policy had ended. Why should they allow their money to be spent sewing pillows under the arms of a dictatorship that responded with bombs and rockets? In December 2007, they elected the conservative Lee Myung Bak as the new president. He renounced the sunshine policy and restored good relations with the United States in Bush’s last year as president.
Relations with North Korea played an important role in Lee Myung Bak’s election campaign. He promised that in order to get more aid and investment, North Korea would first have to phase out the nuclear program. In his first year as president, however, he spoke little about North Korea. It was a bit paradoxical that just as South Korea had abandoned its sunshine policy, the United States elected a “sunshine president”.
Although Barack Obama was even more keen than his predecessor to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear program, he was careful not to offend Kim Jong Il. Obama wanted him back at the negotiating table. Thus, it was Lee Myung Bak who became North Korea’s number one hate object. It forms the background for the acute crisis between North and South Korea in 2010, which began on March 26 when a torpedo was fired at the corvette “Cheonan”.
Lee Myung Bak won international respect for the way he handled the Cheonan crisis. He initially refrained from carrying out demonstrative countermeasures. Instead of immediately accusing North Korea of being behind the sinking, he set up an international commission of inquiry . Only when the commission’s report was available, with clear documentation that the ship had been hit by a North Korean torpedo , did Lee make a strong statement to the nation on 24 May.
There he promised that North Korea would have to pay a high price. All trade between the two Korean states was suspended. No North Korean ships should be allowed to sail through South Korean waters. At the same time, Lee strengthened his international profile through extensive diplomacy with a view to persuading the UN Security Council to condemn North Korea.
The next step in Lee’s efforts to show strength and action was a series of military exercises with the United States , first in the sea east of Korea in July, then a series of war simulations in August and then an exercise in the sea west of Korea in September. In July, he also had US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visit Seoul. They stood shoulder to shoulder with him. North Korea reacted violently and threatened with war. China also protested. The crisis will apparently continue until the G20 summit, which is scheduled to be held in Seoul in November.
4: Change of leadership in the north?
The Korean crisis in 2010 is not just about the danger of war and about Lee Myung Bak’s tough leadership. It is as much about the future of North Korea, about the danger of another famine and about a possible collapse of Kim Jong Il’s regime.
According to THEDRESSEXPLORER, North Korea is not a traditional communist state. The great leader Kim Il Sung was a communist and came to power with Soviet support, but he developed his own distinctive ideology with a strong emphasis on autonomy : juche . Juche institutes, juche literature and juche training programs are more nationalist than communist and place great emphasis on the infallibility of the great leader .
Kim Il Sung and his son are worshiped more intensely and with greater religious devotion than any other leader in the world, although the cult of leadership is similar to Japan’s traditional imperial cult. In fact, Japan has long had its own imperial era. In 1997, three years after Kim Il Sung’s death, North Korea introduced its juche era, beginning in 1912, when Kim Il Sung was born.
The year 2012 is thus the juche year 100 . Many ask if Kim Jong Il will then appoint his successor. Kim was apparently beaten in 2008. Most believe it will be the youngest son Kim Jong Un (26 years in 2010) who takes over, with one or more generals as powerful advisers.
5: How will Korea be reunited?
The 71 million Koreans make up one people. Both South and North Korea want national reunification. Sooner or later, divided Korea will be united. The question is when and how. In 1972, the two states agreed to enter into a dialogue with a view to peaceful reunification, but did not follow up.