Dealing with the North
Apart from managing the economic recovery and coping with political cohabitation, the other major problem facing Kim Dae-jung when he took office was how to deal with the South’s neighbour, North Korea. The Kim Young-sam administration had had a traumatic time in its relations with the North, reaching a particularly low point during the 1993-94 nuclear weapons crisis, when, as is now known, the situation came close to war, and failing to make any significant progress in the bilateral search for real peace and accommodation on the peninsula. Kim Dae-jung, who had often been criticized for being ‘soft’ on the North, came into office determined that he should adopt a more open and more consistent policy than his predecessor had done towards the North. His approach, encapsulated in what he called the ‘sunshine policy’, brought him into conflict not just with the outgoing GNP but at times with his own domestic political ally, Kim Jong-pil, and involved a complicated series of negotiations with external partners, particularly the USA and Japan. It certainly had indirect connections with the politics of economic recovery and, in as much as it became an important issue in the April 2000 elections, was to have a bearing on Kim’s own political future.