Thank you, Dr. Feulner. I would first like to take this chance
to extend my most profound sympathy for the tragedy of September
If there is any comfort to be found in that loss, it must be in
the vision and courage of your leaders, and the valor of so many of
For our part, 50 years ago, Koreans had a firsthand view of
American courage. In places with names like "Heartbreak Ridge",
"Pork Chop Hill" and so many others, we saw - and we remember --
countless individual acts of heroism.
I would like to reconfirm today that the Republic of Korea
stands with you -- and that our support is unqualified and
unconditional. Further, if trusted by the Korean people to lead
them in the future, I will ensure that this support is
Before I begin my remarks, I would like to take just a moment to
thank the Heritage Foundation and President Ed Feulner, and the
American Enterprise Institute and President Chris DeMuth for
hosting this most enjoyable and enlightening event. Your warm
hospitality is matched only by the unparalleled expertise each of
your institutions can claim with regard to Asia.
In fact, the dialogue you hosted with a similar group of experts
and friends during my visit to Washington nearly two years ago was
indeed a highlight of that trip. So I am delighted to have the
chance for a return engagement.
Since that visit, many things have
changed - for example, the leaders of the two Koreas have met in a
much celebrated summit. And the world, post 9-11, is a different
Still, much remains the same. Even as we seek to improve
inter-Korean ties, we continue to be deeply concerned about peace
and security on the peninsula.
Let me make it clear that I believe our policy toward North
Korea -- the policy of both Seoul and Washington, if I may say --
should be one of engagement. There is no viable alternative. The
North's formidable military capability, weapons of mass destruction
and missile threat, as well as the humanitarian suffering, and pain
of national division, are too serious to ignore. And too serious to
be dealt with through policies of isolation, or containment, or
simply what some call "benign neglect."
The Kim Dae-Jung government in fact has eagerly pursued
engagement in the form of the so-called "sunshine policy". This
policy aims to improve relations with the North primarily through
the provision of generous quantities of aid. And although the
inter-Korea relationship is stalled at the moment, I think the
policy has achieved some positive results, particularly in keeping
Pyongyang from serious mischief or provocation.
The sunshine policy also has its shortcomings. By being overly
zealous and generous, it contributed to a breakdown of consensus
and diminished sense of security among our people, not to mention
the negative effects on our economy.
When I criticize these aspects of the sunshine policy, people
ask, what then is my alternative?
My North Korea policy does not have an evocative name. It might
simply be called "strategic engagement". It does, however, have a
clear set of goals and principles, which I will summarize in five
First, the primary goal of our
engagement policy is to promote peace and stability on the
peninsula. This means steering North Korean behavior in a more
positive direction, particularly with regard to reducing tension,
fostering confidence, and building a structure of peace. A related
aim is to induce North Korea to open in a way that will improve its
economy and impel it toward becoming a responsible member of the
international community. It is also essential to address
humanitarian problems such as alleviating hunger in the North and
reuniting separated families. All these efforts would contribute to
peace and stability.
Second, we must inject the element of
reciprocity into the relationship. Our policy toward North Korea
cannot be based on handouts or olive branches alone. Instead, it
must be built on reciprocity and verification - based on a
realistic assessment of whether Pyongyang is genuinely interested
in change. Although we do not and cannot insist on strict
reciprocity on every issue in all respects, North Korea needs to
understand that our relationship is a two-way street -- there is no
Third, our policy of strategic
engagement should not run counter to domestic public opinion; it
should not be carried to political extremes at the expense of
public consensus at home. To be sure, there is overwhelming
national support for improving relations with North Korea. However,
the sunshine policy has widely come to be viewed as over-reaching,
over-generous, and oblivious to the anxiety and insecurity felt by
many people in the South.
Next, although unification is an
important and ultimate goal of our North Korea policy, an even more
important priority is to promote and safeguard human rights,
democracy and free market economy. So the fourth principle of my
strategic engagement policy is to preserve and protect our
fundamental values; on this we cannot compromise.
Last but not least, our engagement
policy should be underpinned by a strong national defense. We must
take the terrorist attacks of September 11 as an occasion to
reflect once again on the importance of national security and
safety. In this regard, the ROK-US alliance will continue to serve
as the mainstay of peace and security on the Korean
The fact is that despite its brave talk, North Korea badly needs
outside help -- in food, energy and other commodities. This
provides us with an opportunity for effective engagement. But we
should use our resources wisely, and in a deliberate fashion. We
should not be carried away with political rhetoric nor indulge in
We do not seek the collapse of North Korea. At the same time, we
should not allow Pyongyang to believe that gamesmanship will be
rewarded. We need a policy consistent and firm enough to let the
North's regime know that it must take us seriously.
We need to approach the North Korean problem in a business-like
way. We should appeal to their self-interest, rather than relying
on their good will. For our part, we should deal with the North in
good faith, but not with the illusion that somehow it will be
reciprocated or that agreements will be kept without our
insistence. A proactive approach should be balanced with healthy
skepticism. In sum, we need a policy flexible, yet firm enough to
induce Pyongyang to negotiate, cooperate and exchange with us.
Another critical element of our approach to North Korea is close
trilateral coordination among the Republic of Korea, the United
States, and Japan. It is true that relations between Korea and
Japan can be touchy, usually over the issue of past history.
However, geographically, we are destined to be neighbors and we
have to learn to live and work together. Fortunately, our bilateral
relationship is now mature enough to withstand occasional
As for China, it has played a constructive role regarding North
Korea. It has had a moderating influence, trying to lead it toward
a path that China itself has taken with success-that is, addressing
economic problems in a pragmatic way.
China is going through enormous social and even political
changes. Those changes may accompany risks, to its government as
well as to neighboring countries. We should try to help Beijing
manage these changes, even if it means China's progress is slow in
some areas. In this connection, I would like to compliment the
United States for the recent improvement in U.S.-China relations.
The progress toward a cooperative relationship is indeed a positive
Russia also has a role to play, as both a former ally of North
Korea and a permanent member of the United Nations Security
Council. As a country undergoing profound political and economic
changes itself, Russia can help in steering North Korea in a more
And now for a look in the mirror. We recognize that however
brilliant our strategy for North Korea might be, it will not be
effective unless we have our own political and economic house in
During the past few years, Korea too has had its share of
political turbulence. The tug of war between the government and the
media, and the plethora of political corruption scandals have taken
their toll. Our chief strength versus the North lies in the fact
that we have a democratic government. But this government must be
clean and effective. So far, the government of President Kim
Dae-Jung has had a mixed record.
For a number of years I have advocated honesty and transparency
in government. Now I am as determined as ever to bring about clean
government and clean politics. We have finally to rid ourselves of
money politics. Political cronyism has to go. Blind regionalism in
politics must be broken. To consolidate true democracy in Korea, we
must increase transparency, fairness and accountability.
In the economic sphere, the Korean economy is showing signs of
improvement lately, as chip prices and the Korean stock market
recover. Consumption, exports and investment are on the way up. If
the economy of our most important partner, the United States, also
recovers this year as expected, it will be a tremendous boost for
However, we still face the unfinished tasks of reforming the
corporate and financial sectors, labor relations and the
government. This year, we will hold local and presidential
elections, and I am deeply worried that political considerations
may overshadow any true effort at reform during this critical
The role of the good politician should be to shield economic
reform from political influence that tries to set it off course. I
try to promote a consistent vision and a reliable long-term
economic plan. Instead of short-term adjustments and quick fixes, I
believe in working to create sustained economic stability for the
country, and making a difference for every Korean household.
In meeting the challenges of economic reform and restructuring,
I fully understand the importance of adhering to market principles
and norms. Reform efforts during the last four years were largely
controlled by the government. But in the future, if reforms are to
stick, the market must be given precedence.
Non-viable firms and financial institutions should be
restructured or driven out of the marketplace. State-owned banks
need to be privatized. Unreasonable government regulations that
hamper corporate initiative should be scrapped. Chaebols'
transparency and corporate governance should be enhanced. Laws and
principles should be respected in the labor market.
Moreover, our capacity to restore confidence and stability in
the Korean economy depends on finally rooting out corruption. We
must do a better job to ensure transparency and accountability in
the implementation of Korea's laws and in the running of its
I have great confidence in the future of Korean economy. And I
have great confidence inthe Korean people to work through these
economic challenges. Through a dramatic rise from poverty, our
people have shown that they are resilient and committed to
improving their country's future.
As we look ahead to the first decade of the twenty-first
century, it is clear that there are both challenges and
opportunities. We are now at a crossroads. We can pursue a path
toward greater peace, economic well-being, and global cooperation.
Or, we may encounter a rise of tension between North and South
Korea, economic downturn, and international conflict.
In my mind the choice is clear. With the right leadership, we
have an excellent chance to create a brighter, more secure future
for our people. In this effort, I consider close relations with the
United States to be the cornerstone of Korea's security and
prosperity. Our two countries are committed to the fundamental
values of peace, freedom and democracy.
Together, we fought - and died -- for these values. I am here
today to reconfirm our friendship and stress the need for
strengthened trust and cooperation for the next fifty years. Thank
Lee Hoi-chang is President of the
Grand National Party, Republic of Korea