Wed, Dec 08, 2010 - Page 5 News List

Seoul must prepare for unification with North, minister says

AFP, SEOUL

South Korea should prepare for reunification with North Korea, Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said yesterday, calling Pyongyang’s shelling attack the “worst choice” the regime had ever made.

“This year will be remembered as an historic turning point in the Korean Peninsula issue,” he said without elaborating.

Last month’s deadly attack on the frontline Yeonpyeong Island had served as a wake-up call for South Koreans about the North’s extremist nature, he said.

“Preparing for reunification has become the country’s imminent task,” Hyun told a seminar.

“We must affirm the value of freedom, human rights, democracy and the market economy and take the initiative in designing the future of the Korean Peninsula,” he said

The minister said the South in the past had focused on managing relations to keep the peace, but now its people had started “looking squarely at the issue of North Korea beyond inter-Korean relations and seriously thinking about the future of the Korean Peninsula.”

US diplomatic cables made public by WikiLeaks quoted Hyun as telling US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell on July 24 last year that although Kim Jong-il remained firmly in control of the North’s regime, he was unlikely to live beyond 2014.

“Hyun advised that in case of a sudden collapse in North Korea, the ROKG [South Korean government] and USG should move quickly toward unification of the Korean Peninsula,” the leaked cable said.

In another US cable, South Korea’s then vice foreign minister Chun Yung-woo told US ambassador Kathleen Stephens at a meeting on Feb. 17 that North Korea had already collapsed economically and would collapse politically two to three years after Kim’s death.

North Korea accuses the congovernment of South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak of pursuing reunification through absorption.

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