There are differences between the United States and South Korea over their approach to North Korea. While no danger of a rift between the United States and South Korea exists yet, there’s a saying in Korean that perfectly sums up their situation: same bed, different dreams.
Korean President Park Geun-hye, having taken a hard line against Kim Jong Un when she assumed power two years ago, has noticeably relaxed her stance on North Korea. That perhaps reflects her domestic political realities, analysts say, pointing out that she’s entered the third year of her five-year term. With few successes to point to so far, they say, she could do with a boost from a summit with North Korea, which generally has the effect of lessening fears of the North.
Certainly, North Korea doesn’t do anything for free. To secure the first summit between the two Koreas, in 2000, Kim Dae-jung’s administration paid $500 million to the North, and the price has apparently risen exponentially over the years. In an 800-page memoir, Park’s predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, writes that North Korea demanded an “absurd” $10 billion and almost a million metric tons in food aid in 2009 during discussions about a potential summit (which never happened).