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Tuesday, April 11, 2000

Korean summit could
achieve breakthrough

Bullet The issue: The leaders of North and South Korea are to meet in Pyongyang in June.

Bullet Our view: Although North Korea is always unpredictable, the summit meeting could achieve progress toward peace.

YOU never know about North Korea. Six years ago, when tension was mounting over North Korea's refusal to permit international inspections of its nuclear facilities, former President Jimmy Carter turned up in Pyongyang and met with the late dictator Kim Il-sung. The Communist leader stunned the world by promising Carter that he would freeze all nuclear projects if the United States would agree to resume direct negotiations.

Kim died shortly after that meeting with Carter but negotiations were resumed at a lower level and produced an agreement on nuclear issues.

Now it's been announced that Kim Il-sung's son and successor, Kim Jong-il, is to hold a summit meeting with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung in June -- the first such meeting since the division of Korea into rival states following World War II.

But as anyone who has tried to follow Korean affairs knows, North Korea's behavior is highly erratic. For example, two years ago it fired a test missile over the main Japanese island into the Pacific, to the dismay and anger of Tokyo.

As a result, Japan suspended shipments of food to North Korea, which was stricken with famine. The United States is trying to develop a missile defense system, in part because of the threat from Pyongyang.

There have been a number of infiltrations of South Korea by North Korean soldiers over the years and South Korea never lets down its guard. The truce line between North and South -- there is still no peace treaty for the 1950-53 Korean War -- is probably the most heavily armed border area in the world.

Since his election two years ago as president of South Korea, the former dissident Kim Dae-jung has taken a conciliatory line toward North Korea, offering to help strengthen its economy, but until recently had been rebuffed. Now it appears that his efforts are bearing fruit -- although he is being accused of announcing the summit only three days before parliamentary elections in South Korea in order to improve his party's prospects.

There is a chance that Pyongyang will seize upon some pretext for canceling the meeting, perhaps by making an impossible demand as a condition for proceeding. It's happened before. Nor is there any assurance that substantive agreements will be reached if the meeting does come off.

Still, progress toward peace may be possible. As our Tokyo columnist, Edward Neilan, reported in Saturday's Star-Bulletin, the "belligerence index" is at its lowest point in years on the Korean Peninsula.

SOUTH KOREA in recent years has realized that a collapse of the tottering Communist regime would create huge problems for the South. Seoul has abandoned its campaign for early reunification in favor of co-existence. The challenge is getting the enigmatic North Korean regime to cooperate. But the summit could be the best opportunity in half a century to find common ground.

Health insurance
for Hawaii children

Bullet The issue: Thousands of Hawaii's children do not have health insurance.

Bullet Our view: Programs that try to identify uninsured children are doing important work.

ALTHOUGH Hawaii prides itself on having the largest proportion of its population covered by health insurance of any state, years of economic stagnation and job losses have taken a toll on insurance coverage. There are now an estimated 31,000 children in the islands who lack health insurance. Those children must be helped.

Efforts are being made to address the problem. On Saturday hundreds of volunteers, mostly from the Oahu Church of Christ, will canvass Kalihi-Palama, Waianae and Waipahu to identify uninsured children and sign them up for available programs. Called HOPE for Kids Hawaii, this is an effort of HOPE Worldwide Hawaii and part of a global outreach day focused on health, education, development and care for women, children and the elderly.

Survey forms will be completed and given to the Hawaii State Primary Care Association, which is trying to find children eligible for Medicaid and the state's QUEST program.

This is one of several programs with the same objective, as described by the Star-Bulletin's Helen Altonn.

The Hawaii Medical Services Association has a new children's plan aimed at families that can't qualify for QUEST and who don't have employer-based plans. The cost is $58.50 per child per month. In evaluating applications, a spokesman said the idea is to help those "falling through the cracks."

The Hawaii State Primary Care Association has a $1 million Robert Wood Johnson grant to seek children eligible for state and federally funded medical programs.

THERE is also a federal Children's Health Insurance Program, expected to start July 1, with the state required to put up matching funds; the money is expected to come from the state's share of the settlement with the tobacco companies.

A state-private program called "Boost 4 Kids" tries to identify eligible children through the school lunch program and get them into insurance programs.

Hawaii's children must have access to quality health care whatever their families' financial situation may be. These programs are attempts to ensure that all of them do.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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