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A stubborn government

Mar 18,2019
In an article he wrote in 2010, Kim Yeon-chul, tapped to be the Ministry of Unification’s head, defined the outrageous murder of a South Korean tourist at Mount Kumgang by a North Korean guard as “a rite of passage.”

“It is better for us to experience such a case early,” he wrote. This indicates that he had no intention to find the truth behind the tragic death of a South Korean citizen in 2008. Later, he even claimed that a retroactive probe of the incident had no meaning, as the incident took place years before.

His remarks raise fundamental suspicions about his qualifications to be unification minister, even if the post requires a strategic approach to deal with North Korea. We are dumbfounded by his incomprehensible position to such a critical issue.

Remarks by Rep. Choo Mi-ae, former leader of the ruling Democratic Party, were also appalling. In a YouTube broadcast Sunday, she first divided sanctions on North Korea into two categories: those aimed at preventing it from developing nuclear weapons and those for punitive purposes. Then she underscored that while the former should be maintained until a complete denuclearization of the North, the latter — such as the ongoing ban on Mount Kumgang tours and the shutdown of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which she said are unrelated to nuclear issues — need to be eased immediately through diplomacy with Washington.

The Park Geun-hye administration decided to close the joint industrial park after North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January 2016. At the time, there were criticisms that the conservative South Korean government reacted to the North’s nuclear provocations too hastily. As the North has conducted two additional nuclear tests and long-range ballistic missile tests since then, the situation has changed. The international community reached the consensus that only strong sanctions can stop Pyongyang from pursuing nuclear development — particularly after the collapse of the second U.S.-North summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February. Arguing for the reopening of Kaesong under such circumstances can cause serious schisms in our alliance with Uncle Sam. U.S. President Donald Trump is still convinced that Pyongyang returned to talks because of sanctions.

Rep. Choo believes the two joint projects are not related to the North’s nuclear development. That does not make sense, as it goes against the international consensus that the rest of the world must cut off the source of money to be used for North Korea’s nuclear arms. Choo’s words are a brazen denial of the legitimacy of United Nations sanctions and the government’s votes for them.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 18, Page 30