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Time to tell the truth

Aug 07,2018
Since the bombshell news about North Korean coal being smuggled into South Korea broke in mid-July, the Moon Jae-in administration has been reiterating that the case is being investigated by government authorities. In the meantime, suspicions over the smuggling, which is strictly banned by the United Nations Security Council resolutions, are growing fast.

According to news reports and other data on international cargo traffic, the number of vessels under suspicion for shipping North Korean coal to Russia and then to South Korea has increased to eight from two. Some news media and local politicians even contend that those vessels had entered South Korean harbors as many as 52 times since August 2017, when the international sanctions on North Korea took effect. One of the suspicious ships has even been found to have docked at Pyeongtaek Harbor for four days, until August 4.

After South Korea knowingly or unknowingly helped make a loophole in the sanctions instead of taking a lead in tightening them, the international community casts doubts on Seoul’s determination to comply with UN sanctions. In the U.S. Congress, politicians went so far as to highlight the need to apply a secondary boycott to South Korean companies involved in the smuggling.

Uncle Sam’s position on sanctions on the North is clear. Voice of America, the U.S. federal government’s official institution for external broadcasting, said on Monday that the sanctions on North Korea will be effective until the rogue state takes concrete actions toward denuclearization. The remarks came after Hyundai Group Chairperson Hyun Jeong-eun expressed hopes to resume tourism to Mount Kumgang within the year after a trip to North Korea.

The U.S. government had the same reaction to the remarks by South Korea’s National Security Adviser Chung Ui-yong and National Intelligence Service Chief Suh Hoon. In a trip to Washington last month, both officials mentioned the need to declare the end of the 1950-53 Korean War and resume the suspended operation of the Kaesong Industrial Complex and Mt. Kumgang tourism.

The remarkable gap between the two allies raises alarms. Sanctions on North Korea are an effective tool to achieve denuclearization. The government must announce the results of its investigations on the smuggling and vow to not repeat it.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 7, Page 30