[EDITORIALS]North Korea's Arrogant MisstepsNorth Korea's recent attitude toward the South has taken a serious turn for the worst. The North has refused to reopen the North-South dialogue channels, faulting heightened security measures in the South, which were issued after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. The North seems to have resumed its hard-line activity of casting slanderous remarks towards the South and resorting to armed provocation. It is not yet clear whether the North is moving under meticulous calculation or whether the recent series of incidents happened by chance. But the developments have led President Kim Dae-jung, who has put the supreme emphasis of his presidency on reconciliation between the two Koreas, to openly acknowledge his "disappointment" over the situation, and this is a serious problem.
The North attributed the breakdown of the recent ministerial conference held at Mount Geumgang on the South's chief delegate and brought about the chill in inter-Korean relations. The North may harbor hate toward the South for not living up to expectations. Maybe it is blaming the South to divert attention from internal tension due to the rupture of inter-Korean talks. Also, the North may be casting criticism on the chief of the South delegation to force him to step down from his post since he has rebuffed the North's demands. This recalls the case of the former president of the Red Cross, Chang Choong-sik, who stepped down after he was upbraided by the North.
Whatever the intention of the North, it should shed its arrogance and correct the miscalculations that enable it to ignore the basic rules of negotiations. Negotiations should proceed to compromise the desires of the negotiators, not to fulfill the wishes of either side unilaterally. The North should keep in mind why President Kim said he would not overly push the sunshine policies of tolerating North Korea and also remarked that he was "disappointed by the lull in inter-Korean relations but will never give up hope." Furthermore, the North should not expect the South's chief delegate to quit his post.
Great interest is focused on whether the gun shots fired at the South from the North Korean guard posts near the military demarcation line Tuesday were under a similar hue. North Korea has asked Australia to quit the Military Armistice Commission that formally supervises the Korean truce and scolded the South for certain weapons inside the demilitarized zone, which do not exist. The North fired gunshots at the South's guard posts and violated the military demarcation line. The North even turned down the South's request to hold a Military Armistice Commission conference to address Tuesday's shooting, which arouses suspicions that the shooting may have been intentional. Whether the shots were intentional or not, the North should keep in mind that attempts to frighten the South will not be successful. This became even more clear when the Defense Ministry, which maintained its silence for fear of impairing the reconciliation mood between the two Koreas, issued an official statement of protest and urged the North to give a proper explanation of the shooting. Even the governing Millennium Democratic Party is criticizing the North.
The North should measure carefully the gains from the lull in the inter-Korean talks. If the North truly wants to alleviate its poverty and create rapprochement in the peninsula, it should stop casting criticism towards the South and accept Seoul's demands to clarify the shootings. An offensive movement towards the South is untimely.