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North slams South’s war commemoration plans

Feb 12,2020
A North Korean propaganda outlet on Tuesday slammed South Korea’s plan to commemorate the 70th year since the beginning of the 1950-53 Korean War, referring to South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun specifically by name.

“The Great Fatherland Liberation War [North Korea’s name for the Korean War] was the result of the United States’ invasive policy to dominate Korea and Asia, and it is a well-known international fact that it was a war launched by a northward invasion by South Korea’s traitorous regime under Syngman Rhee,” said the Pyongyang Broadcasting Station, the North’s leading radio station, in a morning radio transmission. “But South Korean officials including Chung Sye-kyun are spinning a series of spineless narratives by calling those who participated in the war as heroes.”

The outlet, also known by the name Radio Pyongyang, went on to demand that Chung and the South Korean government “immediately cease their despicable and childish acts of distorting history.”

The commentary, the latest in Pyongyang’s ongoing criticism of the South since the rapid deterioration of inter-Korean relations last year, speaks to the divergent perspectives on the war between the two Koreas, which ended in an armistice in July 1953.

North Korea maintains that the war began not with an invasion of the South ordered by its first leader Kim Il Sung on June 25, 1950, but rather with a series of border attacks conducted by South Korean troops along the 38th parallel in prior months.

In the South, the war began after the North Korean Army - which was vastly superior in strength to the South’s at the time - launched a complete offensive on the South, pushing forward to take over Seoul in just three days. A host of evidence suggests North Korea had made extensive preparations to unify the peninsula by force, with Kim having repeatedly urged Maoist China and Stalin’s Soviet Union for support with his war plans.

With 2020 marking the 70th year of the conflict’s beginning, South Korean Prime Minister Chung on Jan. 31 took part in the first meeting of a committee launched by the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs to memorialize the war and the veterans of various United Nations member states who took part to defend South Korea from the North’s invasion.

“The June 25 War [Seoul’s preferred name for the conflict] was another painful part of the history of our country, which had barely emerged from Japanese rule, but we realized the miracle of the Han River from its ashes and achieved democratization,” Chung said. “This was all possible thanks to the sacrifice made by the veterans who gave their lives for the defense of our country.”

The North typically celebrates the war on the day the armistice agreement was signed, July 27, which it claims marks a victory over the United States and South Korea.

Its ire over the South’s ceremony, however, may be less about Seoul’s interpretation of the origins of the conflict, but rather the ongoing tension that has overtaken inter-Korean relations since last year. In Tuesday’s broadcast, Radio Pyongyang further slammed the South’s Ministry of National Defense for its creation of a military surveillance drone unit, saying the South Korean government was pretending to want peace while at the same time “colluding with external forces to conduct hostile actions undermining of the nation.”

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]