Korea ties may be heading to disaster: ex-president

Other News Materials 14 November 2008 07:53 (UTC +04:00)

Former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, architect of a policy a decade ago to bring the two Koreas together, has warned relations may be heading toward catastrophe as the prickly North draws deeper into its shellб Reuters reported.

The reclusive state, blaming the South's conservative government for dragging relations to a dangerous low, has said it would close their border on December 1 and is also limiting travel across the border with its main benefactor China.

"South-North relations now stand at a crossroads -- heading toward catastrophe or reconciliation," the former president, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end decades of enmity between the two Koreas, told the Hankook Ilbo daily.

The reclusive state's retreat into its cocoon comes amid widespread speculation its leader Kim Jong-il, 66, may have suffered serious illness, possibly a stroke, and could be losing his iron grip on power.

There is no clear successor to Kim, who become the communist world's first dynastic ruler when he took over from his father and founder of North Korea, Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994 but remains the state's eternal president.

Analysts say it took Kim about two years to establish a hold on government following his father's death.

Since then he has allied himself closely to the military, which has one of the world's largest standing armies of around one million. But the policy of putting his generals and soldiers first has come at huge cost to the country.

Industry is rusting from lack of investment and the population of 23 million is constantly on the verge of famine.