Sunshine Policy

Sunshine Policy

Infobox Korean name
hangul=햇볕 정책
rr=Haetbyeot jeongchaek
mr=Haetpyŏt chŏngch'aek
The Sunshine Policy was the South Korean doctrine towards North Korea until Lee Myung-bak's election to presidency in 2008. The doctrine emphasizes peaceful cooperation, seeking short-term reconciliation as a prelude to eventual Korean reunification. Since its articulation in 1998 by South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, the policy has resulted in greater political contact between the two nations and one of historical moments in Korean peninsula, two Korean summit meetings in Pyongyang (June 2000) which broke ground with several high-profile business ventures, and brief meetings of separated family members.

Some critics believe that it ignores what they call the fundamentally repressive and belligerent nature of North Korea, and has resulted mainly in propping up the regime of Kim Jong-il, which they believe will topple if other countries stop sending aid. Also, the previous governments have been criticized for sending aid sent to North Korea, which has almost all been consumed by the North Korean military.

In 2000, Kim Dae Jung was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as a result of the Sunshine Policy.


The term "sunshine policy" originates in one of Aesop's fables. In the fable, the sun and the wind compete to remove a man's coat. The wind blew strongly, but the man clutched his coat and kept it on. The sun shone warmly, and the man voluntarily took off his coat to enjoy the fine weather. The main aim of the policy is to soften North Korea's attitudes towards the South by encouraging interaction and economic assistance.

The policy has three basic principles.
*No armed provocation by the North will be tolerated.
*The South will not attempt to absorb the North in any way.
*The South actively seeks cooperation.

These principles are meant to convey the message that the South does not wish to absorb the North or to undermine its government; its goal is peaceful co-existence rather than regime change or re-unification, though a unified Korea is still the stated long-term goal of South Korea.

Kim's administration also outlined two other major policy components. The first is the separation of politics and economics. In practice, this means that the South has loosened restrictions on its private sector to invest in North Korea, limiting its own involvement essentially to humanitarian aid. This was initially meant both to improve the North's economy and to induce change in the North's repressive government, though the latter goal has since been (at least officially) de-emphasized.

The second component was the requirement of reciprocity from the North. Initially it was intended that the two nations would treat each other as equals, each making concessions and compromises. Perhaps most criticism of the policy has stemmed from the significant backpedaling by the South on this principle in the face of unexpected rigidity from the North. It ran into trouble just two months into the Sunshine era, when South Korea requested the creation of a reunion center for divided families in exchange for fertilizer assistance; North Korea denounced this as "horse trading" and cut off talks. A year later the South announced its goal would be "flexible reciprocity" based on Confucian values; as the "elder brother" of the relationship the South would provide aid without expecting an immediate reciprocation and without requesting a specific form of reciprocity. The South also announced that it would provide humanitarian assistance without any expectations of concessions in return.

The logic of the policy is based on the belief that, even in light of its continuing famine and economic deprivation, Kim Jong-il's regime will not collapse, disintegrate, or reform itself, even if the South were to apply strong pressure. It is believed that military tensions can be lessened through bilateral and multilateral frameworks. This emphasizes the normalization of political and economic relations between both the United States and North Korea as well as Japan.

The Sunshine Policy in the Kim administration

Under Kim Dae-jung's administration the Sunshine Policy was first formulated and implemented. North-South cooperative business developments began, including a railroad and the Kumgangsan Tourist Region, where several thousand South Korean citizens still travel every year. Though negotiations for them were difficult, three reunions between divided families were held (though the North canceled a fourth at the last minute).

In 2000, Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il met at a summit meeting, the first between heads of state of the two nations. After the summit, however, talks between the two nations stalled, possibly due to a schism within North Korea between hard-liners and reformists. Criticism of the policy intensified and Unification Minister Lim Dong-won lost a no-confidence vote on September 3, 2001. [ [ CNN 2001: North and South Korea talks] ] After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the US called North Korea part of the Axis of Evil and the North cut off talks with the South [ [ FNF Korea-Liberal Times] ] . In 2002 a short naval skirmish over disputed fishing territory killed four South Korean sailors, further chilling relations. [ [ CNN Archives: 2nd battle of the Western Sea] ] [ [ English version of China People's newspaper - 2002] ]

Credible allegations later came to light that Kim's administration had arranged the 2000 summit meeting with payments worth several hundred million dollars to North Korea.

The Sunshine Policy in the Roh administration

President Roh Moo-hyun has continued the policy of his predecessor, and relations on the divided peninsula have warmed somewhat since 2002. In 2003, the issue of the North's possession of nuclear weapons surfaced again, with both North Korea and the U.S. accusing each other of breaching the Agreed Framework.

Nevertheless, Roh stayed committed to the policy and his government has continued to supply the North with humanitarian aid. The two governments have continued cooperation on the projects begun under Kim Dae-jung and also started the Kaesong Industrial Park, with South Korea spending the equivalent of just over $324 million on aid to the North in 2005 [ [ Joongang Daily news - 2005 article] ] .

There appears to be a pro-unificational Korean trend in public attitudes, though there are significant differences between generations, political groups, and regions. [ [ Free Korea blog 2001 post] ] [ [ article] ] [ [ Korea Focus Commentaries] ] But, the ruling Uri Party, which strongly supported it, have suffered recent electoral defeats and eventually, in 2008 the party lost its majority in the government and the government now takes a harsher stance.

Both the North and South Korean Governments agreed to hold a summit in Pyongyang on August 20, but this was later posponed to [ [ Rescheduled summit focus shifts to solidifying six-party agreement] ] October 2 to 4 due in part to an internal crisis within North Korea. Unlike his predecessor Kim Dae-jung who travelled to Pyongyang by plane, [ [ Korean Leaders Meet for Pyongyang Summit] ] Roh travelled from Seoul to Pyongyang overland by car on October 2. Roh made a stopover at Panmunjeom and crossed the Military Demarcation Line by foot, who stated that his gesture would symbolise the future reunification of Korea. [ [ South Korean president to cross northern border with North on foot] ; [ Korean leaders meet in Pyongyang] ]


Many critics of the policy believe that, rather than increasing the chances of reunification or improving the human rights situation in North Korea, it has been used instead for political gain in domestic politics in the South. They point to what they say are the continuing provocations and criminal activities committed by the North, such as the 2002 sea battle that left several South Korean sailors dead [ [ CNN television news transcripts] ] , the counterfeiting of American money [ [ The Washington Times December 1, 2005 article on USD superdollars] ] , and what they call the North's general unwillingness to reciprocate Seoul's gestures of goodwill, as evidence that the North is interested only in receiving money and aid to prop up the regime of Kim Jong-il. Critics also believe that, in exchange for providing humanitarian aid, the South should demand that the North return kidnapped South Korean citizens and the remains of POWs from the Korean War. [ Hankooki Times article - October 2005] ] Some see the Kaesong Industrial Park as merely a way for large South Korean companies to employ extremely cheap labor.

In 2006, North Korea backed away from its pledge to re-open direct rail links between the North and South. No comment was made from Pyongyang as to why the sudden turn-about was made or when the link might be opened. This was used by critics of the Sunshine Policy as further proof of North Korea's failure to repay the South's goodwill with similar gestures.

Many observers see the weakening of the US-ROK alliance as being due in large part to the Sunshine Policy; they say it has led the South to favor the North's interests over those of its ally the United States [ [ News archives, January 1, 2003 article] ] and that it leads South Korean politicians to unreasonably mute or censor criticism of the North and even to ignore the sacrifices of its own soldiers so as to avoid upsetting the North. [ English version of Chosun times, April 2005 article] ] [ [ BBC Asia Pacific article] ] [ [ Games are article] ] They say that this is harmful to the South's national interest in being allied with the United States [ [ July 2004 article from Hankooki Times] ] , and actually damages the chances for a smooth and peaceful reunification. Internationally and at home, the South Korean government has been criticized for repeatedly abstaining from United Nations votes condemning the North's human rights record. [ [ Korea Herald article - November 18, 2005] ] [ [ Hankooki Times, November 2005 article] ] The government defends the abstentions by citing the special character of inter-Korean relations.

Sunshine Policy In Peril

On October 9, 2006, following the nuclear and missile tests, South Korea suspended aid shipments to the North and put their military on high alert status. There is much concern regarding how South Korea can maintain a cooperative policy towards the North when such provocative acts are occurring. [ [ DNA article/report] ] Nonetheless, the government of South Korea has insisted that at least some aspects of the Sunshine Policy, including the Mount Gumgang Tourist Region and the Kaesong Industrial Region will continue.

From March 2008, however, the new president of the South, Lee Myung-bak and his party took a harsher stance at North Korea, and the South Korean government stated that any expansion of the economic cooperation the Kaesong Industrial Region would only happen if the North resolved the international standoff over its nuclear weapons. Relations have again chilled, with North Korea making threatening, angry moves such as a series of short range ship-to-ship missile tests. [ [ MSNBC article: U.S. says N.K. missile tests "not constructive", March 28, 2008] . Retrieved March 28, 2008.]

ee also

*Korean reunification
*Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization
*Hyundai Asan
*List of Korea-related topics



* [ Terrorism Eclipses The Sunshine Policy: Inter-Korean Relations and the United States] , Asia Society, March 2002
* [,13673,501030210-418629,00.html The Cost of Sunshine] , Time, 3 February, 2003
* [ Excerpt from Rand Corporation monograph]
* [ The Future of the Sunshine Policy] , Friedrich Naumann Foundation, 15 June, 2001
* [ No sunshine yet over North Korea] , Asia Times, 13 May, 2005
* [ Despite U.S. Attempts, N. Korea Anything but Isolated] , Washington Post, 12 May, 2005
* [ Sunshine Policy in a Nutshell] , a publication of the Federation of American Scientists.
* [ The Bush Administration and the Korean Peninsula: Interview with Dr. Suh Sang-mook] , Stanford Journal of East Asian Affairs, Spring 2001, Volume 1.
*Oberdorfer, Don. "The Two Koreas : A Contemporary History." Addison-Wesley, 1997, 472 pages, ISBN 0-201-40927-5

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