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Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Fri, 19 Dec 97 14:03:39 CST
From: David Muller <davemull@alphalink.com.au>
Organization: South Movement
Subject: South News Dec 19
Article: 24390

Korean reunification moves closer

South News, 19 December 1997

Seoul: The election of opposition leader Kim Dae-jung on Friday brings reduced tensions on the world’s last cold war frontier and puts reunificatrion of the divided Korean peninsula on the agenda.

I hereby propose to North Korea to resume a dialogue based on the South-North Korean Basic Agreement, Kim said. National reunification can be discussed and achieved later through progressive and gradual means, he said.

Ties between the two Koreas—which have been technically at war for since the 1950-53 Korea War ended in an uneasy truce If things were in better shape on both sides of the border, Kim’s election might have marked a swift turning point in ties, one diplomat said. The North Korean economy has been shattered by floods and droughts and South Korea struggling to repay its estimated $171 billion in foreign debt.

Most analysts expect any progress, if at all, to come through talks underway at present between the two Koreas, China and the United States in Geneva to replace the fraying armistice with a permanent peace. However Noriyuki Suzuki, editorial director of Radio Press, a Tokyo-based agency that monitors North Korean media, said Kim’s election also gave the South the moral high ground for the moment in dealing with Pyongyang. The veteran politician has suffered for democracy, spending long spells in prison under South Korea’s former military rulers.

Kim is known for his democratic credentials , he said. The North will find it hard not to talk to him. Suzuki also said that in a culture where age was respected in leaders, Kim’s age of 74, though a handicap in the presidential election, gave him a boost in dealing with North Korea’s 55-year-old Kim Jong Il, son of the north’s founder and who took power earlier this year.

His victory capped a remarkable turnaround for a man once regarded as a pariah by successive army-backed regimes. A former dissident, Kim survived assassination bids, a kidnapping and a death sentence before achieving his life-long ambition on his fourth attempt.

Japan welcomed Kim’s victory.. Thanks to your lofty vision and prodigious experience in politics, we are confident you will lead your country to ever-greater development, Hashimoto said. Koreans still have bitter memories of Japan’s harsh colonial rule from 1905-1945.

The election commission certified Kim’s victory and formally declared him president-elect in the afternoon after the closest election in the country’s history. Kim won 40.3 percent of the vote against 38.7 percent for the governing party’s Lee Hoi-chang. Kim is not due to take office until February 25, when incumbent President Kim Young-sam completes his five-year term.