[EDITORIALS]A Bungled Event in North Korea

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[EDITORIALS]A Bungled Event in North Korea

The activities of the South Korean delegation to the Grand Festival for National Reunification in Pyongyang have started a controversy. The government is raising questions over some delegation members' participation in the opening and closing ceremonies of the festival in violation of the agreement four delegation leaders signed prior to their departure. The officials who should have foreseen such actions but still approved their participation in the event should be punished.

The government needs to explain why the decision on the delegation's trip was changed. Working-level officials at the Unification Ministry originally decided not to allow the delegation to visit Pyongyang, fearing that they would be used for the North's propaganda purposes. The problem lies in the hurried approval for the trip, 20 hours prior to the delegation's departure, by Unification Minister Lim Dong-won and his deputy, Kim Hyung-ki. Mr. Lim must explain the reasons for his actions. Did the North break a promise to make the event at the Three Charters Monument a North Korean-only one? Did delegation members lie to the government about the existence of such an agreement? Did Seoul approve the visit despite knowing the North's intentions?

The Unification Ministry says it informed the delegates of its receipt of an agreement signed by four leaders representing them all; that contrasts sharply with the account of many members of the delegation, who say they did not know about the document their leaders signed. We wonder whether a proper orientation session was held for the delegation, and how it was arranged on such short notice.The delegation should have acted more cautiously; even after the opening ceremony at the monument stirred up a controversy here, some delegates persisted in attending the closing ceremony. The delegation should cancel its plans to tour Mount Baekdu and Mount Myohyang, immediately return to Seoul and face questioning.

The government should not repay the delegation's expenses for their trip to the North from the North-South cooperation fund, as it did for the event held at Mount Kumgang commemorating the June 15 summit meeting last year. If delegates violated a pledge they made, those violations will only end when the government makes clear that there are penalties to be paid for them.

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