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Ruling party candidate challenges Constitution with idea on unification

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Ruling Democratic Party of Korea presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung, left, shakes hands with a supporter as he arrives in Boeun County in North Chungcheong Province, Sunday. Yonhap
Ruling Democratic Party of Korea presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung, left, shakes hands with a supporter as he arrives in Boeun County in North Chungcheong Province, Sunday. Yonhap

By Nam Hyun-woo

Ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung has created a controversy by stating "it is too late to pursue the unification" between the two Koreas, as this challenges South Korea's Constitution as well as the DPK's manifesto.

During a meeting with university students in Asan, South Chungcheong Province, Saturday, Lee made the statement, adding "there is no need to elevate hostility by denying each other's system and arguing over which can be absorbed by which."

Lee made the remarks in answering a question about what would distinguish his North Korea policies from that of previous administrations.

The DPK candidate noted that he prefers a "de-facto unification status," saying, "There is the argument that we should refrain from being too political and rather focus on practical approaches."

Lee's comments brought on a backlash as they go against South Korea's Constitution, Article 4 which stipulates: "The Republic of Korea shall seek unification and shall formulate and carry out a policy of peaceful unification based on a basic free and democratic order."

The DPK manifesto also states: "The party seeks unification through peaceful measures." It continues: "Through peace, we pursue a peace economy in which South and North Korea can co-prosper, and we strengthen the foundation of an inter-Korean community for unification."

Ruling Democratic Party of Korea presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung speaks during a meeting with university students in Asan, South Chungcheong Province, Saturday. Yonhap
Ruling Democratic Party of Korea presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung speaks during a meeting with university students in Asan, South Chungcheong Province, Saturday. Yonhap

Regarding criticism that liberal administrations, including that of the Moon Jae-in government, have just tried to offer incentives to the North despite the latter not giving up its nuclear program, Lee said such an engagement policy and incentives were more beneficial from a broader and more comprehensive perspective.

"When inter-Korean relations deteriorate and military provocations take place, foreign investment (into South Korea) plummets and foreign exchange rates go up," he said. "This (negative impact of soured inter-Korean ties) alone costs a lot more (than the incentives)."

He also said Seoul's investment in Pyongyang will open an economic opportunity for South Korea to use North Korea's workforce the wages of which are one of the world's lowest.


Nam Hyun-woo namhw@koreatimes.co.kr


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