In a striking change of tone, South Korea Wednesday said it was ready to offer the most extensive aid program ever conceived for North Korea if the Communist regime would apologize for sending a spy submarine into southern waters and resume cooperative relations.
South Korean unification official Moon Moo Hong said the still-secret program covers 10 major areas, including direct food aid, technical assistance to improve agricultural productivity and joint development of tourist facilities. Those facilities would likely be built on the remote eastern coast, where well-heeled South Korean tourists could enrich the near-bankrupt regime without destabilizing the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, he said.
Although President Kim Young Sam first hinted at the program in an August speech, his overture was followed by the North’s submarine infiltration and other provocations. But Moon said the plan remains locked in his safe, ready to be unveiled if Pyongyang would “change its mentality.”
“The North should not be afraid of the South. They should regard us as their friend and sibling. I am always thinking of ways of helping them without hurting their pride or giving them burdens,” Moon, the assistant minister for unification policy, said in an interview Wednesday. “Please give North Korea this message.”
Moon’s conciliatory words marked a departure from the hard-line attitudes Seoul has displayed since North Korea sent the spy submarine into southern waters in September, setting off a bloody manhunt that left more than two dozen soldiers and civilians from both sides dead.
President Clinton and South Korean President Kim are scheduled to meet Sunday in Manila, Philippines.