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Lee’s inappropriate remarks

Oct 08,2018
The remarks made by Chairman of the ruling Democratic Party Lee Hae-chan at a ceremony in Pyongyang to commemorate the Oct. 4, 2007 joint declaration between South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il are stirring up controversy. In his visit to Pyongyang from Oct. 4 through Oct. 6 with officials from former and current administrations, Lee said that the liberal Moon Jae-in administration is determined to stay in power no matter what because inter-Korean exchanges will be impossible if they lose power in elections. In a meeting with An Tong-chun, vice chairman of North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly, Lee went so far as to highlight the need to discuss the fate of the National Security Law to establish a permanent peace regime.

No one would find fault with Chairman Lee underscoring the need to facilitate South-North exchanges and establish a peaceful system during his trip to North Korea. But he should have been very careful in expressing himself because the issue of revising or scrapping the security law has long been a hot potato in the South. Our society was acutely split over the sensitive issue.

We wonder if Lee really had to mention the issue to his North Korean counterpart. The issue of amending or abolishing the decades-old security law should be resolved by our political parties, not North Korea’s. We are deeply concerned about the likelihood that his remarks could fuel internal conflict with opposition parties.

We are also worried about Lee’s emphasis on “maintaining power as long as he is alive.” The Democratic Party brushed it off by claiming that it was simply an expression of hope to extend the liberal government’s rule in South Korea. But such a statement by the leader of a ruling party can translate into a plan to pave the way for a lengthy rule of the nation by cooperating with the Workers’ Party in the North and destroying opposition parties in the South.

If the ruling party gives the impression that it will take advantage of inter-Korean ties to score points in domestic politics, that will surely lead to the opposition’s fierce resistance. Lee and the ruling party must draw bipartisan cooperation from opposition parties by refraining from partisan remarks and listening to their positions. Otherwise, the DP and the government will not be able to receive their cooperation in ratifying the April 27 Panmunjom Declaration between President Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, not to mention making further progress in inter-Korean exchanges.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 8, Page 30