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As North ups threats, some S. Koreans remain friendly

In some areas, the 'Sunshine policy' of former leader Kim Dae Jung remains popular.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak talked to goverment officials at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea on Tuesday.

Park Chang-ki/Yonhap/Reuters

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– The legacy of the Sunshine policy of reconciliation with North Korea endures in this thriving southwestern seaport that spawned the career of former president Kim Dae Jung.

"He is our hero," says Park Young Sook, a student, hiking atop one of the rocky peaks of Mount Yudai, which rises more than 700 feet above the city and its glistening harbor and is sheltered by dozens of islands from the Yellow or West Sea.

Attitudes in this city in the depths of the Cholla region contrast with the rest of the country. Nationwide, feelings about the longtime approach are mixed – especially as North Korea has revved up its rhetoric against the South in recent days. And if his conservative party does well, as expected, in National Assembly elections on April 9, recently inaugurated president Lee Myung Bak will have the confidence to pursue what he calls a "pragmatic" policy toward North Korea.

The North blasted Mr. Lee in an editorial in the party newspaper Tuesday as "a traitor" and "sycophant toward the United States," after a South Korean general said the South would have to stage a "preemptive strike" if the North threatened a nuclear attack on the South.

Yet, as the central government adopts a tough line toward North Korea, people here in the wellspring of Mr. Kim's support revere the former leader as a hero for developing North-South relations after more than a half-century of war and crisis. Kim regularly won 95 percent of the votes from the Cholla region in his four presidential campaigns. Now the question is whether his Sunshine policy can survive under Lee.

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