- The Washington Times - Monday, February 10, 2003

There is a scandal of international proportions brewing in South Korea. This past week it was revealed that 71 checks, comprising nearly $190 million, passed from the coffers of the South Korean government to a Hyundai subsidiary and at least three different banks in at least three different countries before finally arriving in Pyongyang. The transfer was completed just one day before the leaders of the North and South met in June 2000, and there are credible questions whether the historic summit and by extension, the South's contentious policy that kindness brings peace was merely a bought-and-paid-for event.
Hyundai Merchant Marine has claimed the money was for a new investment project in the North. But that deal wasn't signed until two months later, in August, and the stealth with which the money was funneled is highly irregular. Meanwhile, the administration of Kim Dae Jung is sending mixed signals, claiming on the one hand that no such transfers occurred, and on the other, that, if true, such payments would be justified as an "act of governing." In other words: We didn't do it; but if we did, so what?
The opposition Grand National Party, which controls the legislature and has no patience for coddling the North, has called for the appointment of a independent counsel to probe the matter. President-elect Roh Moo Hyun, a liberal dove and disciple of Mr. Kim, has also called for full disclosure, but there is a real concern that he wishes to deal with the burgeoning scandal too quietly and too discreetly. "We cannot let society descend into a whirlwind of political contention from this controversy," Mr. Roh said.
In truth, this is exactly the kind of controversy that deserves vigorous public examination and debate. It goes directly to the biggest issue the international community faces in Asia: How to deal with the North. The current vogue among South Korean liberals and the country's younger generation is to answer Pyongyang's insults and provocations with increased kindness. The essence of this "sunshine policy" is that the North's Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il, is ultimately a reasonable man, and that from a diplomacy of peace and patience, the bonds of trust will develop.
Thus it was that the June 2000 summit in Pyongyang was so important for these well-intentioned South Koreans. As the two Kims toasted, 50 years of enmity was said to be finally drawing to a close. Indeed, Kim Dae Jung was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts and his sunshine policy gained ever more credence among the electorate.
But there is an overlooked corollary to the sunshine policy. If Pyongyang can do no wrong, and yet relations do not measurably improve (and they have not), then someone else must be blamed for the island's division. Hence the decidedly anti-American sentiment South Korea's ruling politicians have helped foment. But if, as the evidence so far suggests, these same politicians merely purchased the summit, then they and their avowals of Kim Jong-il's inherent goodness will be exposed as a sham, and the moral high ground they claim swept away.
If South Korea's sunshine policy has achieved anything, it is to shine a light on the failed policy of buying peace and security from North Korea. South Koreans opposed to those who would get tough on Pyongyang may want to ponder whether they wish to be bullied in this way for much longer.

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