- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Lim Chang-yuel, whose term as governor of South Korea's largest province expires Sunday, flew into Pyongyang yesterday with a planeload of agricultural equipment as a "goodwill gesture" to support the "sunshine policy" of the government of Kim Dae-jung.

With the rest of South Korea reveling in the host team's unexpected success in soccer's World Cup, the mood in Seoul appears tailor-made for a conciliatory gesture toward North Korea.

Mr. Lim discussed his plan to visit the North Korean capital during a two-day visit to Washington last week.

"We are seeking to restore the momentum that produced [South Korean] President Kim Dae-jung's historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in June 2000," he said.

Despite the high hopes created by that meeting two years ago, the South Korean leader's attempt to improve relations with the North has not gone smoothly.

A new administration in Washington put U.S. policy toward North Korea on hold while it undertook a top-to-bottom review, and North Korea responded by slowing down its own process of accommodation.

President Bush's decision to include North Korea with Iraq and Iran in an "axis of evil" was seen by many as complicating the effort, though Pyongyang announced months later that it was prepared to resume talks with the United States.

While in Washington last week, Mr. Lim reiterated the South Korean president's argument for wooing the North into a web of cooperative relations.

"There is no other way," he said. "For five decades we confronted the communist regime in the North and what did that accomplish? Nothing."

Mr. Lim touched base with the same centers of financial power in Washington that he tapped as finance minister in 1997, when his nation's overextended chaebols, or economic conglomerates, could not make payments on their debts.

At that time, Mr. Lim relied on the powerful American contacts of his boss to open the door to new loans, without which the South Korean government was in danger of financial collapse.

"The crisis of 1997, brought on by the currency troubles of Thailand, threatened the entire international financial system," Mr. Lim said.

After the crisis abated the following year, Mr. Lim stepped down from his central government post and won the governorship of Kyonggi, a province located in the center of South Korea. Kyonggi accounts for a quarter of the nation's population and about a quarter of its gross domestic product.

Once again, Mr. Lim proved he had the ability to attract foreign funds.

"Foreign investment in Kyonggi really took off. In 1998, our foreign investment stood at $80 million. Now its is $3 billion," Mr. Lim said.

A member of Kim Dae-jung's Millennium Democratic Party, Mr. Lim plans to run for a seat in the national legislature later this year.


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