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Stop pandering to Pyongyang

Jan 31,2018
It is lamentable that North Korea abruptly canceled a joint cultural performance scheduled for early February on Mount Kumgang. The North’s notification at midnight Monday has thrown an inter-Korean agreement into the trash can. Pyongyang also notified Seoul on Jan. 19 of its decision to call off an artistic troupe’s trip to South Korea out of the blue and reversed it shortly thereafter. No one knows what cancellation notice it will send tonight.

North Korea attributed its cancellation of the joint cultural performance in Mount Kumgang to the South Korean press. After a number of local media raised the issue of the Moon Jae-in administration’s efforts to pay all the costs for the performance in North Korea, Pyongyang rebutted those reports and called such criticisms a brazen attempt to “defame the sincerity of the measures we have been taking for the Olympics in the South.”

That was the North’s reaction to our media reports, which found fault with the government’s plan to offer North Korea diesel oil to help supply electricity for the joint performance, and to their reports that North Korea’s military parade in Pyongyang just a day before the opening of the Games critically damages the Olympic spirit. North Korea’s attacks are obviously aimed at taming the South Korean press and government.

Such a form of blackmail is nothing new. Fifteen days ago, North Korea threatened to turn the Olympics into a disaster if South Korean authorities did not control the press. Some security experts interpreted that as disgruntlement with our defense minister’s remarks that if North Korea uses nuclear weapons, it will be wiped off the map. Whatever the reason, Pyongyang went too far by reversing an inter-Korean consensus. As a result, our government has been blamed for pandering to North Korea.

A considerable number of South Koreans are wondering why the two Koreas should hold a joint performance and a joint training in the North on the sidelines of the Games. They harbor skepticism about President Moon Jae-in’s excessive push to restore inter-Korean relations. We understand the government’s efforts to find a breakthrough. But we have doubts about the effectiveness of such a position.

The government wants to draw a dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington through inter-Korean talks, but it only created a schism in the alliance. The government must deal with North Korea confidently. If not, it will have to succumb to its unreasonable demands constantly.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 30, Page 30