Is Lee Myung-bak naked?

President Lee Myung-bak announced on 21 September offering North Korea a ‘grand bargain’. An end to the failed step-by-step approaches. A ‘comprehensive package’ that would be agreed on by the countries involved in the six-party talks. The Marmot, seems to think this all sounds a bit dull. But this isn’t dull, it is vacuous and therefore wonderfully ridiculous.

South Koreans have often boasted that they understand North Korea better than anyone. They have more people whose job it is to watch and ponder on North Korea, its leader, its politics, and its economy. They have a deep personal interest in how things develop on the peninsula, arguably more so than others involved. South Korea has been involved in the six-party talks, they have been a key player in all that has gone on. And when it is time to step in with their own ideas on how to go forward they offer an unclear, undefinable, ultimately impractical, nebulous notion of a one-off swap? It is both disappointing and amusing at the same time.

Perhaps when the details come out it will suddenly become clear and amazingly insightful. For now, it isn’t clear how an exchange of security assurances, international aid, (and energy supplies) could be bargained in a one-off deal for full, verifiable dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear program(s). And if Lee Myung-bak is referring to a deal on paper that would then be implemented over time, he hasn’t offered anything new. Talk of not being soft on North Korea anymore has absolutely no credibility.

After the Agreed Framework, the sunshine policy, Perry’s two path proposal (untested) and the six-party talks, I expected something with a little more substance. The previous ideas, though they have failed, have all clearly involved a lot of thought and led to a lot of discussion and, in earlier years, even a bit of hope. Are we truly out of ideas?


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September 2009
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