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South Korea seeks a new way to handle North Korea

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In the quest for a new paradigm, the sense that the North cannot endure parallels the reality that it has defied predictions of economic failure and disaster for decades. "It is certainly hard to imagine the sudden melt-away of apparatus of the North Korean Workers' Party and its military," said Gong Ro-myung, a former foreign minister and chairman of the Sejong Foundation, which has close ties to the South's government. "There is no indication to suggest a massive ... uprising."

'Change can happen'

Change can happen, Mr. Gong said at a seminar, only if "the next leadership after Kim Jong-il," possibly his youngest son supported by a coterie of generals, "would seriously pursue reform and an open-door policy like China." And China would have to "mount real pressure so that the next leadership in North Korea has to adopt an economic open-door policy."

South Korean planners are full of ideas, most of them positing that North Korea will engage in serious economic restructuring, and that it will come to terms at six-party talks hosted by China on its nuclear program and open up to commercial, mail, Internet, and phone contact.

"We want ... relations, exchanges, and cooperation in a ... reciprocal way," says Mr. Han, who chairs the Asan Institute, a think tank for international conferences. "I don't think the Sunshine Policy has ended. Rather, it's a different framework."

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