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"Actions Not Words"
US Envoy Vershbow Demands from N. Korea
US Ambassador to Seoul Alexander Vershbow

US Ambassador to Seoul Alexander Vershbow, who created controversy by calling North Korea "criminal regime," raised his voice again for the alleged North Korean counterfeiting US bills.

The top US envoy demanded actions instead of "words" from North Korea for the counterfeiting issue in a recent interview with a local daily JoongAng Ilbo.

He also said the US cannot recoganize products made in North Korea's Gaeseong Industrial Complex as South Korean products while he was mentioning FTA (free trade agreement).

Vershbow also touched upon other key issues — US visa exemption for South Koreans, six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear issue, anti-American sentiment, and "strategic flexibility" involving USFK (United States Forces Korea). The follwing are the complete questions and answers of his interview.

Q1: Did you take your transfer from Moscow to Seoul as a come down, or did you not?

A1: No, I saw it as a very exciting and unexpected challenge. Being a Russian specialist it was hard to go beyond being ambassador to Russia, and to have had the privilege of doing that job for four years at a very interesting period in our relations; the chance to broaden my horizons and to work in Asia, and to be in the post which may not be the biggest one we have in our diplomatic service, but is dealing with perhaps some of the most interesting issues, was an offer that I couldn't refuse.

Q2: You know, when your nomination was known in Seoul some of us were excited because you are known for transformation ... of upgrading whatever system, and is it fair to expect you to practice that expertise in Korea, the transformation of some regime?

A2: Let me say something, first of all, the fact that I have been involved in a lot of different kinds of transformations over the years may have been one of the reasons Secretary Rice recommended me for the job. I was very much involved in the transformation of NATO, both when I was there in the early nineties and then again as ambassador in the late nineties. I was involved in the transformation of Cold War structures in Europe, and indeed in the transformation of the former Soviet Union. So I think that is especially timely since Secretary Rice has now said that transformational diplomacy is the overarching principle for the State Department under her leadership and for President Bush.

But, transformation can take many different forms, and in the case of the Korean peninsula, I would certainly like to see a transformation of relations between the two Koreas and between the United States and North Korea. And I think that Americans are also very hopeful that if we can get beyond the current suspicions and concerns regarding North Korea, that we can see a process of change inside that country that leads to a better life for the North Korean people. So we hope that we can engage with the current regime through the Six-Party process and perhaps in other channels as well to promote positive change.

Q3: Your arrival here coincided with some anti-American sentiment in this society, as you know and witnessed. Is there any specific or particular achievement which you expect to achieve?

A3: Well certainly the first priority for me and I think for every American ambassador that has preceded me has been to strengthen the US-ROK alliance. That is one of our most important and enduring relationships. It has, of course, been key to peace on the Korean peninsula for the last fifty-three years and I think it has been the foundation for Korea's remarkable transformation into a strong democracy and a prosperous market economy. I think that the most interesting part of the job is that this alliance is evolving; it is going through a process of transformation that I am optimistic will make it even stronger and more valuable to both parties in the future. That is because Korea itself is taking on a more international role, as is seen by its contributions to peace-building in Iraq and Afghanistan, to international disaster relief, and to international development assistance; so our alliance also is taking on a global dimension, and I think that can only make it more valuable in the future. Another aspect of the job that makes me excited about being here is that relations among the different states in Northeast Asia are also going through a period of change. The ultimate destination is not yet clear, but I think that the US-Korean alliance can be the cornerstone of some new cooperative structure of security in Northeast Asia. Whether that is a formal institution, or whether it's just a series of informal relationships, remains to be seen; but I think, drawing perhaps on my NATO experience, there may be opportunities to create new multilateral mechanisms in Northeast Asia that would help promote cooperative relations among China, Korea, Japan, the United States, and hopefully North Korea, if it comes out of its isolation and becomes a real participant in Northeast Asian progress.

Q4:Is anti-American sentiment in this country more serious or less serious than you had expected before or either?

A4: I am not sure that I would give a quantitative measure of anti-Americanism. Often it's sometimes confused with Korean nationalism, which is a natural reflection of Korea's strong sense of identity and history, and also a reflection of the new pride that Koreans feel in the country's growing stature in the world; so pro-Korean nationalism is not always the same thing as anti-Americanism. I also take comfort from opinion polls that show continued strong support for the US-Korean alliance and the strong belief on the part of the vast majority of Koreans that, if we get beyond the divisions of the Korean peninsula, maintaining an alliance for the sake of stability in the broader Northeast Asian region is the interest of Korea. And I think it is also in the interest of the United States to have such a strong democracy as its partner in this part of the world.

Some issues over recent years have prompted criticism of the United States. There even have been demonstrations outside our embassy and it's only natural that there will be disagreements over policies. But I don't think that anyone should overreact to these events. And I think that because we both have an interest in keeping the alliance together, these kinds of problems can be overcome.

Q5:So you enjoy this challenge (if it is a challenge)?

A5: I have always enjoyed a challenge, that's what has kept me going in twenty-nine years in our diplomatic service; I always prefer the more challenging assignments.

Q6:The drum-playing Ambassador, does it help you with your diplomacy?

A6: Well, it certainly helps me find a little balance between the pressures of the diplomatic agenda, and the dozens of serious meetings that I have every week, to have a little time just to have a little fun, and in the process convey an image of American diplomacy that may have a softer edge than is possible by giving speeches about FTAs or North Korea or the US-ROK alliance.

Q7:How often do you do it?

A7: Drumming? Oh, I haven't counted up the number of times, but I probably had the opportunity to play more than ten times. Sometimes it has been an unexpected invitation to come up and join the band, such as occurred when I spoke to the Korean International Trade Association about a week ago. A few times they have asked me to play the drums without any other musicians, which is not my preference; I like to be more of the back-up rhythm section than soloist.

Q8:You started a controversy with the North Korea criminal regime comment. There were two points of criticism, one that it was the primary duty of the US embassy to promote the relationship as you said earlier between the countries, and point two, that you raised obstacles to the resumption of the Six-Party Talks through the critical remarks you made., Do you wish that you hadn't made the remarks?

A8: Well I think that looking back at that episode, my main concern is that it may have diverted attention from the real issue that I was trying to address, which was the illicit activities by the North Korean regime and the need for other countries to send a clear message to North Korea that these activities need to come to an end if North Korea wants to be accepted as a normal country. So since that time, I've decided to leave to academics and journalists the responsibility for describing the North Korean regime and to focus on the activities themselves. I think that it is now becoming better understood by North Korea that these issues are not going to go away, that many nations are concerned about them. Foreign Minster Ban Ki-Moon made a very strong statement the other day about the need for them to take concrete action to resolve these issues, so we hope that will happen. There are so many opportunities that the North Koreans are missing by linking these issues to Six-Party Talks. Because if we can move to implement the September 19th joint statement, it can open the door to a real change in North Korea's relationship with its neighbors and eventually with the United States. It can lead to a permanent peace regime on the Korean peninsula — which would, I think, not only legally change the situation from a state of war to a state of peace, but psychologically transform relations in this region and open the way to real confidence-building measures, tension-reduction measures, that can underpin the process of normalizing our relations with Pyongyang. Now in the process of normalization, North Korea needs to demonstrate that it will abide by the norms of the international community. We are eager, though, to start the discussions on how that can be achieved, and the way to do that, of course, is for the Six-Party Talks to resume.

Q9:Judging from North Korean reaction to your remarks, they apparently have got your message. Are there signs that Pyongyang admits to counterfeiting and will stop the operation-the project?

A9:There have been some signals in the last few weeks that perhaps indirectly indicate that North Korea is beginning to acknowledge that there is a problem that is not going disappear, and that they need to take steps to address the concerns, not only of the United States, but of all the other parties to the Six-Party process. Of course they are continuing to deny that there's any state involvement in these activities, but the comment about participating in international efforts against money-laundering, plus some other signals that it's possible there are individuals that may be discovered to have been involved in counterfeiting, give us at least some hope that something is beginning to change in their approach to these issues. But the ultimate test will be their actions, not their words, and hopefully they will take up the offer we made back in November to sit down and hear from our specialists what are they legal issues that have caused them to run afoul of American legislation so that they can better understand what could be done to reduce our concerns.

Q10: But your side has turned down the offer, North Korea's offer, to send a Li-Gun to Washington to talk about that. Why would they turn it down?

A10: I think the question of a meeting at that level is still open.

Q11: Is it higher or lower?

A11:Well, I am not directly engaged in the contacts (concering such a meeting) ...

Q12: But your feeling?

A12: I think the idea of a meeting at that level, which was suggested after the confusion surrounding the November proposal (when it was misrepresented by the North Koreans as an offer to negotiate)…the idea of a meeting at the level of Li-Gun has been in the air since then and I think it is possible that that the idea may come to fruition. But I am not privy enough to any contacts that may be taking place about that.

Q13: You know, at first, the Korean Government was unhappy with your calling North Korea a criminal regime, but Mr. Ban and Ambassador Lee Tae Shik made a statement with remarks that show that Korean Government has now come very close to your stance. Do that take much efforts and shouting matches, etc.?

A13: No, no. no. We have never had any shouting matches. It's a very friendly conversation.

Q14: How do you explain it?

A14: I think there has been continuing dialogue on these issues, and I think there is a mutual recognition that it is important that we need to stand together in dealing with what are real problems. We will never solve any of our problems with North Korea if we are divided. Moreover, we've had experts here that discussed the issues related to money-laundering. They were accompanied by US Secret Service Specialists who gave an up-to-date briefing on the supernotes and the latest evidence that we have accumulated on that. Those meetings, despite the unfortunate exchanges in the form of press releases, the meetings themselves, were actually quite productive and reflected a broad agreement, both on the substance of the issues and on the need for international coordination. So I think there is also a mutual understanding that there are some issues on which our two governments express themselves differently, reflecting our political traditions and our different political constituencies back home, and that this may led to a perception of divergence on the surface. But I am confident that on the core issues, on the core objectives that we are trying to achieve with North Korea, we are very much in alignment.

Q15: Mr. Ambassador, you mentioned that action is more important than words (in addressing the counterfeiting issue). Could you give me some specific example of the action; what is the minimal requirement of the US?

A15: What I actually said in the recent interview was that there are many different ways that the North Koreans could address our concerns and many different ways that it could be presented. The question I was asked was 'would a promise not to do it again be enough.' And the answer is no, a promise is not enough. There has to be some evidence, through their actions, that things are changing. This may take time to become visible, but I think North Korea has the responsibility to demonstrate that its conduct is changing, and I think that this is similar to what South Korean officials, including the Foreign Minster, have been saying. But our aim is to solve the problem. We are not trying to use this as a wedge to isolate North Korea or to avoid negotiations in the Six-Party process. On the contrary, we're ready to continue those negotiations without any preconditions. But we very much want to overcome our many differences with North Korea, to solve the problems and start the process of developing a normal relationship with that country. North Korea has to demonstrate that it is prepared to fulfill its commitments under the September 19th joint statement, — first and foremost its commitments related to denuclearization — but it also has responsibilities if we are to achieve a peace regime, normal diplomatic relations, and North Korea's economic integration with the wider Northeast Asian region.

Q16: You and Washington have characterized this counterfeiting as a state criminal activity. Would you take an apology from a very high ranking North Korean official for the United States to be able to declare the case concluded? Not just punishing a scapegoat.

A16: It's really hard to say what would be sufficient. I think that we're realistic about how much we can expect from the North Korean regime in terms of statements, and that's why we are focusing more on the actions than the words. Of course everybody would hope that North Korea could take a page from the book of Colonel Qadhafi, who after years as an international pariah made a strategic decision to abandon his nuclear programs — to open up his whole nuclear establishment, to turn over all the materials, to basically make a clean break. That would be the best case with respect to many of the different issues related to North Korea, but we are, as I said, realistic.

Q17: Ok, now on a new subject. The agreement for Korea's acceptance of Strategic Flexibility of US forces in Korea, I think was a pathbreaking event in the history of the US-Korea alliance, a meaningful turning point. But, as you know, President Roh Moo Hyun said what they call Roh Moo Hyun Doctrine, saying at the Air Force Academy commencement ceremony in March of last year opposing, in fact, this Strategic Flexibility, which may automatically bring South Korea into a conflict, a regional conflict. Under this situation, will there be no problem in implementing this strategic flexibility?

A17: My view was that this was indeed a very important and positive decision for our alliance and it does represent a very major example of how two close allies are able to find a balance of interests that gives additional vitality and longevity to the alliance. We made it very clear in the understanding that was released on the 19th of January that we respect the Korean position that it won't be drawn into a conflict in Northeast Asia against the will of the Korean people. But at the same time, the Korean side of the alliance indicated that it respects the need in the 21st century, when there are all kinds of challenges around the world ranging from the war on terrorism to humanitarian operations in response to natural disasters, for the United States to be able to have the flexibility to use forces that may be deployed in one region to deal with a situation in a different part of the world. This is actually nothing new. I was reminded that during the Gulf War, Desert Storm, some capabilities were temporarily re-deployed from the Korean peninsula to serve in the Gulf. When they leave, they're assigned to a different unit. USFK was not operating in the Gulf. The units and the equipment were needed, and the key then — and the key in the future — is that nothing would ever be done that would jeopardize the fundamental commitment under the alliance to ensure the security of the Korean peninsula.

Of course, strategic flexibility is a key factor that strengths the alliance because, with the US now reducing its forces to 25,000, our main ability to defend the peninsula in a crisis is through reinforcement — bringing in troops from other parts of the region and even from other parts of the world. That depends on having strategic flexibility in the countries where those forces are based, having the consent of other governments, including Japan, which plays a key role in the flow-through of forces to Korea in the event of a crisis. So Strategic flexibility is a good thing for the alliance in many different ways.

Q18: Today, the Joongang Ilbo, the evening paper, reported an interesting story. You know National Assembly member Roh Hoe Chan, progressive member from the Democratic Labor Party. He quoted a Blue House document allegedly written in December 2004, to the effect that strategic flexibility includes missile defense, used by America in military places in Korea to be used in case of an emergency. May I ask for your comment?

A18: I'm not familiar with the document and I would never comment on internal Korean government deliberations. We do have, as part of our contribution to the alliance, some Patriot units deployed here on the Korean peninsula, which provide defense against North Korean tactical ballistic missiles. Those are very capable systems, which conceivably might be needed in a contingency in a different part of the world. So I think the principle of strategic flexibility applies to any of the capabilities we have here. But I think we would never withdraw forces that could be seen as jeopardizing the defense of the Korean peninsula. I think that's why we have a Combined Force Command that can address these issues, that can make sure that there's a full understanding of the implications before any moves are made with respect to capabilities like the Patriots.

Q19: I have some questions regarding the FTA issue. Do you think there is enough time for an agreement between the US and Korea before the timeline that both parties set runs out?

A19: We do think there's enough time. It's a very ambitious timetable, no question about that. There've been a few cases where we've negotiated FTAs in even less time, but they may have been less complex than the US-Korean FTA. But both sides are convinced that we can get it done, and that perhaps having a deadline will focus the minds of government officials on both sides to be serious and concentrate on the central issues and not get distracted by minor details. The fact is that our congressional authority does expire on the 1st of July of 2007 and no one could possibly be confident that that authority would be renewed or extended. So I've adopted the slogan that "failure is not an option." The benefits of this agreement are too significant for us to go down the road and not reach the finish line.

Q20: What is the US's position if Korea decides to exclude sensitive areas like its rice industry?

A20: We know that there are going to be sensitive issues, especially in the agricultural area on the Korean side. There are also going to be some sensitive issues on the American side. That's all been considered in the process of preparing for these negotiations. For the United States it's a central principle that an FTA should be a comprehensive agreement that covers the full spectrum of goods. Certainly agricultural exports are a very important element of US foreign trade, and so we will be looking to expand our opportunities to sell our products in the Korean market. And I think that Korean consumers will, of course, benefit significantly if there is greater availability of American fruits and vegetables and meat products. How individual issues will be treated is for the negotiators to address. I'm not going to make any predictions on how they'll be treated; we shouldn't get ahead of the negotiating process itself.

Q21: Has your position changed on treating products from the Kaesong Industrial Complex?

A21: We know that the Kaesong issue is going to be an important subject for the Korean side and, as we've said, the starting point is that this agreement covers goods made in the United States and the Republic of Korea. How that is defined is for the negotiations and it's probably best not to speculate on how the issue will be treated in practice. I would say the United States does support projects, like Kaesong, which create opportunities to introduce free-market principles to the North Korean economy and improve living conditions, at least for the North Korean workers involved. But there are lots of other dimensions to the Kaesong issue which will have to be addressed in the course of the negotiations.

Q22: I have a short question about the Visa Waiver Program. There have been some promising remarks from Condoleezza Rice, as well Ambassador Lee Tae Shik over here. Actually, Mr. Lee kind of mentioned a deadline or timeframe aiming for the end of 2007. How do you think that's feasible or is it not?

A22: We're still at the beginning of the process that was launched when President Bush indicated in Gyeongju that we're ready to develop the roadmap. I'm certainly strongly committed to achieving the goal of getting Korea into the Visa Waiver Program. Secretary Rice made clear that she is a strong supporter of this idea as well. But there are specific criteria that will have to be met. One is, of course, to bring the refusal rate below 3% for two consecutive fiscal years. We're now in the midst of fiscal year 2006, so we hope that by the 30th of September, the end of the fiscal year, the rate will be below 3% and then we'll be in fiscal year 2007. In the absolute best case, Ambassador Lee Tae Shik's comment is correct — that the last quarter of 2007 would be the earliest possible time. But of course there are other issues that have to be addressed as well, including an upgrade of Korean passports, the incorporation of not only machine-readable features, but also biometric features. There are other judgments that will have to be made by Washington — in particular by our Department of Homeland Security, which has the lead role on this issue — looking at how Korea's entry into the program will affect our concerns about US law enforcement issues.

We're working hard, we've had extremely good initial contacts with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice. The experts now are actively engaged and I'm optimistic. But I would caution people not to let expectations get ahead of reality. Right now, our consular section is still open for business and the lines are short during the wintertime. So we encourage everybody who doesn't have a visa to get one. The more legitimate travelers who apply, the more we can bring the refusal rate down.

Q23: Solving the visa waiver issue could eliminate a lot of anti-American sentiment in the country.

A23: I certainly know that, and nothing would make me happier — not only to make life easier for Korean travelers, but also for the consular officers at the US Embassy.

Q24: Is South Korean government going too far, too fast in providing economic assistance to North Korea? Is it out of step with the progress of the Six-Party Talks, from your vantage point?

A24: I think that we have a general understanding of the strategy that South Korea is pursuing and we certainly understand the need to provide humanitarian assistance to deal with the most immediate hardships of the North Korean people. The United States has always taken the principle that humanitarian aid, food aid, should not be used as a political weapon. At the same time, I do think there's a general understanding among South Korea, the United States, Japan and the other parties to the Six-Party process that it's important to move ahead on the different tracks that are embodied in the September 19th joint statement in some kind of synchronized way. We certainly believe that North Korea should fulfill its obligations on denuclearization and that the principle of "word for word, action for action" should be the guideline for the other parties' approach to the other tracks. So I think that we've been in continuing consultations on how to actually do this process of coordination and synchronization. I think that our general approaches are fairly similar.

Q25: There was concern among Korean experts, observing that the US is losing interest in and being less enthusiastic about resolving the nuclear issue as soon as possible and it's a danger that North Korea will have no other option than going nuclear, if the US concentrates on anti-proliferation measures only. What is your comment on this?

A25: I've heard that concern quite frequently in the last few weeks. Most of the time people have been looking at our intensive diplomacy with respect to Iran and wondering whether Iran is somehow bumping North Korea off the agenda. That really is not the case. It's true that the Iran issue is at a very delicate stage with the Iranian rejection of the original European proposal, their commencement of at least limited uranium enrichment and their, so far, refusal to accept the Russian proposal. Iran is consuming a lot of attention and we're pleased that the permanent five members of the Security Council could reach agreement to report the Iran problem to the UN Security Council.

But despite the immediate focus on Iran, I can assure you that senior policymakers in Washington have been devoting lots of hours to the North Korean issue over the last few months, despite the hiatus in the negotiations, precisely because we are very interested in achieving a real breakthrough in our relations with North Korea and to promote reconciliation on the Korean peninsula. We're not complacent about the nuclear issue or resigned to North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons. On the contrary, as our two Presidents said in Gyeongju, a nuclear-armed North Korea remains unacceptable.

When the talks do resume, and we hope that is very soon, the United States is going to be prepared for very active efforts to implement the September 19th joint statement in all its dimensions. I would add that some have questioned whether our focus on the illicit activities also reflects a shifting of priorities away from the nuclear issue. I would again assure all your readers that the nuclear question remains the most immediate challenge that North Korea poses and we remain committed to dealing with it through negotiations. But we will, as Secretary Rice said the other day, take necessary measure to defend ourselves against a country that is engaged in counterfeiting, drug trafficking, money-laundering and similar activities.

Q26: Another argument is that the Bush administration has no North Korean policy, what it has is just a nuclear policy which, from those Koreans' point of view, must appear as cherry picking to the North Korean nuclear issue. What is your response?

A26: As I've said earlier, we very much do see the Six-Party agreement from September as offering a path toward a fundamental change in our relationship with North Korea. That, of course, is premised on North Korea living up to its commitments on eliminating its nuclear programs. But if they are prepared to translate the principles agreed on in September into concrete action, we're prepared in parallel to fulfill our commitments. As I said, there has been a lot of high level attention in Washington to North Korean strategy in the broad sense. In some respects, how to implement the denuclearization issue is already well understood — in terms of the steps required, the verification measures involved, the need to involve the IAEA, etc. But I think that the other aspects — whether involving negotiation of a peace regime, normalization of relations, development of economic relations, and the broader challenge of encouraging economic and political reform inside North Korea – that is where intellectual energies have been focusing over the last few months in Washington. So when the negotiations resume, the North Koreans will find that we've been doing our homework, and we hope they've been doing their homework too.

Q27: You are a Russia expert and you were involved for a long time with Russian affairs, you are now working very hard with Koreans, how would you compare the national character of Russians to Koreans in relation to your duty as a Russian expert there, as Ambassador here?

A27: Well, there's lot of similarities in terms of temperament of Koreans and Russians, and I think that's why Americans find it exciting to serve in both countries. Like Russians, Koreans tend to be very direct, very frank in explaining their point of view and very nationalistic, very proud of their past and of their national achievements, and very open about criticizing the United States. So in that sense I do see a lot of similarities. But I do think after four months I can say that I feel there's a closer bond between Koreans and Americans than I felt in Russia, even though I spent much of my academic and professional life working with the Russians. I think that perhaps it's partly our shared past, the fact that our alliance was born in a bloody conflict and developed at a time of an existential threat to South Korea, which was part of a global Cold War conflict, that also drove us together. I think it's even more the shared values and shared passions of our peoples today, and in the future, that create this bond. It's reinforced by the fact that so many Koreans study in the United States, are interested in American culture but are developing through Hallyu their own very unique culture. I think it's the spirit of innovation and pushing the frontiers of science that also brings us together. So perhaps in Russia I felt that I was in the country that I had studied for many years and understood pretty well. But here I feel like I'm almost at home.

Q28: Do you agree with the Wall Street Journal article that argued that neo-conservatives in Washington are losing their influence and neo-realism is on the rise?

A28: I always find those kinds of articles quite amusing because they tend to pigeonhole certain individuals who actually are a bit more complex and have many different strands of thinking simultaneously. I think there's always been a strong realistic component to our policy throughout the two terms of the Bush administration. We have been trying to work through the Six-Party process for several years now. So it's always fun to speculate who's up and who's down, who's got the President's ear on Monday and who has it on Friday. But I think that our policymakers actually do agree on all the fundamentals, and the most important thing of course is they all take their orders from the President of the United States. So some of these factional scenarios make good copy, but they may not necessarily reflect what's really going on in Washington.

Q29: Since you are familiar with Eastern Europe and European culture, are the two civilizations clashing right now?

A29: European and ... ?

Q30: Christian and Islam.

A30: I think it would not be fair to say two civilizations are clashing. It's clear that there is a radical element within today's Islamic world that is pursuing a very confrontational approach, which does reject the principles of tolerance and interfaith dialogue, of respect for different cultural traditions that characterize not only Western countries (and by that I include countries like Korea, Japan and even China), but also characterizes many Islamic countries. So this is more a war within Islam, which is having its manifestations in the form of these violent protests provoked by the cartoons. The real battle is for the future direction of Islam, and I think that the silent majority among Islamic believers, whether in the Middle East or Southeast Asia and other parts of the world, does subscribe to the principles of tolerance. And we hope that that's the point of view that will prevail.

Q31: Do you think the Six-Party Talks will be resumed next month?

A31: It's really impossible to predict. We're hopeful that they'll resume very soon, but still the signals are very mixed from North Korea.

Q32: If Mr. Li-Gun went to Washington D.C., do you think this is a good starting point to resume the Six-Party Talks?

A32: Now that the North Koreans have, after all these months, taken up our proposal for a meeting to discuss the issues involved with illicit activities, it could be at least part of the way back to the table. We hope so. That was one of the reasons why the proposal was made way back in November.

Q33: Last week was Kim Jung Il's birthday, so he's 64 years old now. Who will be the successor? It's time to designate his successor.

A33: That's a question other experts may be able to answer better than I. Certainly in the case of the transition from Kim Il Sung to Kim Jung Il, the process of preparing the successor for power began more than a decade before the actual passing of Kim Il Sung. Kim Jung Il is only 64, so I think you'll have to ask him the next time you have a chance: what are his plans for the succession?

Q34: You know this is kind of an open secret, Kim Jung Il reads Joongang Ilbo everyday. So, if you have a personal message to Kim Jung Il, this is a good chance to send it.

A34: Does he read it online? I think that the answers I have given to your questions will be interesting enough for him, I hope.






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