The San Diego Union-Tribune
News of summit shocks wary S. Koreans
Many citizens fear price
North will make them pay
By Howard W.French, New York Times
SEOL, South Korea - An unusual catalog of emotions
- shock, relief, wariness - was on display yesterday
as South Koreans learned their country's president
would go to North Korea in June for the first-ever
summit meeting with his communist counterpart.
One reaction, nearly universal, was shock that
meeting few had imagined possible had been successfully
negotiated in secret. In almost every case, the
suprise was followed with a happy sense of relief
that the Cold War might finally be ending in one
of it last redoubts.
The came the practical question, asked by almost
all: What will it cost us?
Such a mood-dampening question, on an occasion
seemingly fit for celebration, was an expression
of the extraordinary circumstances of a diplomatic
break-through whose basis has still not been publicly
Why, indeed, after years of snubbing South Korea
as an insignificant puppet of the United States,
had the North Korean government chosen the eve of
crucial national election n the South to offer that
country its most precious diplomatic plum.
"We are all waiting for details of what we
must give them and what we can expect from North
Korea," said Yeon Ha-cheong, dean of the school
of marketing at Myongai University in Seoul. "North
Korea will certainly demand alot of things."
After announcing the break through yesterday, the
South Korean government compounded the mystery by
providing almost no information about the scret
negotiations that had led to the agreement with
the North. The government did say that the task
of fixing an agenda for the talks would be left
to diplomats in the weeks ahead.
That left many South Korean experts on North Korean
diplomatic behavior wondering aloud yesterday who
was taking advantage of whom. To hear them speak,
either the South Korean government was cynically
manipulating the issue of national unification fo
vote-getting purposes or the leadership was being
had by a Ponygyang government that sensed it was
desperate for a pre-election breakthrough.
In practical terms, the legislative vote Thursday
will determine how much power th South Korean president
KIm Dae-jung, wields for his remaining three years
And, in addition to finally rewarding Kim for the
steep political risks he has taken in reaching out
to the North, several analysts said, Pyongyang probably
calculated that the eve of the vote was the moment
to strike a diplomatic deal at the highest price.
"This kind of meeting cannot come all of the
sudden, out of nowhere," said Cho Dong-ho,
head of North Korean economic studies at the Korean
Developtment Institute, a private nonprofit group.
"No one knows in detail, but the basic agenda
must be a long-term frame-work of political contacts
between us, and of course economic cooperation."
Although North Korea is widely believed to be past
the worst its catastrophic economic difficulties
of the last decade, when 200,00 or more people died
of starvation, the country is still afflicted with
debilitating power shortages.
One potential reward that was widely mentioned
yesterday as a possible recompense for giving the
South Korean president such a diplomatic vindication
on the eve of South Korea's elections was a reconection
of the power grids between the tow countries, enabling
the booming South to furnish desperately needed
Speculation about quid pro quos has only been magnified
by North Korea's recent diplomatic behavior. For
years, after the end of the Cold War and the loss
f most of its communist allies, the country bore
the title of the world's most isolated regime.
But North Korea has recently emerged as one of
the most diplomatically active countries. And, in
most instances, formal ties,or even seious diplomatic
contacts, ahve come at a steep price tag.
Persistent reports have circulated in recent weeks
that Pynongyang since agreeing to resume official
talks with Japan, has sought $5 billion in "reparations"
from that country fro Tokyo's brutal colonial past
in the country.
The United states, too, has often been put in a
position where it has had to commit itself to helping
ease North Korea's economic catastrophic- through
major food or fuel deliveries- in exchange for Pyongyang's