South Korea’s Sunshine policy towards the North has been in a virtual coma for the two months since the inauguration of conservative Lee Myung-bak asof the South. Lee wants to act tough and teach Pyongyang a lesson on a Confucian golden rule: reciprocity.
Lee believes Pyongyang failed to learn from the carrots Seoul patiently dangled during over the past 10 years. South Korea, in Lee’s mind, held onto a naive belief that such goodwill gestures would eventually be reciprocated by Pyongyang. Now, it’s time for a reality check, hardliners are clamoring, and many are describing the time spent on the Sunshine policy as the "lost 10 years".
Lee’s tactics, of course, are reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s stance toward the Soviets. It’s a high stakes game, to be sure. But if Lee will keep his cool, he can make progress.