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LKP ridicules ministry’s climb down on missiles

May 07,2019
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) on Monday came down on the Blue House and ruling party for a wish-washy response to North Korea’s test of tactical guided weapons and multiple rocket launchers.

Hwang Kyo-ahn, chairman of the LKP, lambasted the Ministry of National Defense for backpedaling on the fact that Pyongyang fired missiles.

“The Defense Ministry announced that North Korea launched a ‘short-range missile’ and revised it to several rounds of ‘projectiles,’” Hwang wrote on his Facebook page Monday. “Then they said it was a ‘new tactical guided weapon.’ What are they doing?”

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) initially announced Saturday morning that North Korea fired multiple short-range “missiles.” Just 40 minutes afterward, the JCS revised its original statement and said that “projectiles” were launched in Wonsan in the North’s Kangwon Province. On Sunday, the Ministry of National Defense said the projectiles were tactical guided weapons.

Similarly, Kim Hyun-ah, an LKP spokesperson, said in a statement, “This government was bent on deceiving the eyes of the people and lowering the assessment level of a missile launch.” She added that she was personally “fuming” that the “Democratic Party [DP], with its complacent perception of security, is protecting North Korea, which clearly made a missile provocation, and distorting the fact making the people uneasy.”

Kim claimed that the Defense Ministry’s revised statements signified “incompetence and a lack of information, or a deception of the people.”

Whether North Korea actually fired ballistic missiles in the drill is a sensitive issue, as they are banned under United Nations Security Council resolutions and could result in further economic sanctions, hampering denuclearization negotiations with the United States.

During a party meeting Sunday on foreign affairs and security, Hwang said the government has to “definitely take responsibility for revising announcements because of political factors and to downplay the threat.”

Other lawmakers, like LKP Rep. Won Yoo-chul, said, “It is an astounding reality that missiles can’t be called missiles.”

The LKP has been holding weekly rallies in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, for the past three Saturdays protesting the Moon administration and fast-tracked reform bills, which have pitted the LKP against the four other parties.

During Saturday’s Gwanghwamun rally, Hwang accused the Defense Ministry of “lying” about the missiles, adding “We can’t trust this kind of government.” Hwang has also held rallies protesting the Moon administration in cities outside of Seoul, including Gwangju Friday, where he was met with fierce protest by locals, who called out LKP lawmakers who made insensitive remarks regarding the May 18 Gwangju uprising in 1980 and demanded the party to be disbanded. Hwang was pelted with water by angry activists at one point and the trip to Gwangju was eventually cut short.

Hong Ik-pyo, spokesman of the ruling Democratic Party, expressed “regret” to North Korea on Saturday and on Monday demanded for “the LKP to immediately halt its political offensive.” However, otherwise, the DP has kept a restrained response.

Likewise, the Blue House has said it will wait for the military’s analysis.

But North Korea’s latest test puts the Moon Jae-in administration in a pickle. North Korea last tested an intercontinental ballistic missile in November 2017. For the past 18 months, it has adhered to a voluntary moratorium on nuclear and ballistic missile testing, which allowed the ongoing denuclearization negotiations.

Rather than seeing North Korea’s latest testing as a provocation, DP lawmakers see it as a gesture toward wanting to resume dialogue.

Hong, the DP spokesman, also said Monday, “South Korea and the United States maintain firm cooperation on North Korea policy,” indicating it was unfazed by the LKP’s accusations.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]


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