Though his address touched on such weighty issues as reunification of Korea and containing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, the second-place finisher in the South Korean presidential race began his address at the Elliott School of International Affairs Tuesday by expressing empathy for a fellow politician.
“I did not naturally support Sen. McCain’s policy. However, I do know how painful it is for him,” said Chung Dong-young, South Korea’s former Minister of Unification.
Chung, who is currently a professor at Duke University, said he has high hopes for President Obama’s administration.
“I think good politics is politics that unite our people. In this sense President Obama is beginning his tenure with expectation and hope,” Chung said.
Chung said he hoped Obama would follow a policy of “smart engagement” marked by close cooperation between Washington and the South Korean government, and a focus on issues beyond nuclear proliferation.
But Chung did not deny the importance of the nuclear problem.
“If the North Korean nuclear issue is solved, you could see a completely different horizon on the Korean Peninsula,” he said.
Chung evaluated different approaches to solving the nuclear problem in North Korea. He said that the Bush administration tried to solve it by force and failed in their efforts. Another poor option would be to simply ignore the issue completely, an approach he derided as “irresponsible, not to mention dangerous.”
Instead, Washington should follow the path of diplomatic means, which is something Chung believes Obama will do.
“President Obama already stated that in order to solve issues of serious consequence, he will be willing to speak with leaders of enemy states,” he said.
He suggested that the United States choose a liaison to address the nuclear issue in North Korea, naming Bill Clinton as a possible candidate. Chung also acknowledged that Obama faces many issues and that dealing with North Korea may not be his top or immediate priority.
During his time in office, Chung worked with Kim Jong-Il and the Bush administration during the Six Party Talks in 2005. He noted that the North Korean leader seemed very aware of discussions in Washington related to North Korea.
“He stated frankly that he hopes to make advancements toward reconciliation of the North and South relation, and his hopes of becoming a friendly nation to the United States,” Chung said.
Chung said he is proud to have participated in the Six Party Talks, but that more needs to be done to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear threat.
“I’d like to recommend that rather than continue the dialogue at the working level, the highest level initially should be engaged as soon as possible,” he said.
One of Chung’s ambitions is for his country to work together with North Korea on the Galdery Industrial Complex, which would provide thousands jobs for both countries.
After his presentation, Chung answered questions and took pictures with members of the audience. He advised students who are interested in politics and leadership to focus on being good listeners and inspiring others and to think of themselves as “conductors.”
“A good leader is a good conductor to orchestrate the new voices, as a music conductor,” he said. “That’s the main pillar of good leadership.”