[EDITORIALS]North dam a priority

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[EDITORIALS]North dam a priority

There are mounting concerns among South Koreans about a possible collapse of the Geumgangsan Dam due to its suspected shoddy construction. The South Korean government has come up with measures to prepare for a possible failure of the North Korean hydroelectric dam, including emptying and strengthening other dams upriver from Seoul. But people are growing increasingly fearful with the summer rainy season not far ahead. Pyeongyang has not made any public comments about the dam.

Fortunately, talks for economic cooperation between the two Koreas will be resumed in Seoul starting Monday. Above all, Seoul and Pyeongyang must make seeking solutions for the safety of the North Korean dam a priority. On the agenda for the talks are relinking cross-border railways and providing rice aid for the North. But the safety of the Geumgangsan Dam is more important than any other issue.

Since the Geumgangsan Dam is a cause for our concern, how can we talk about helping the North without solving the issue? Therefore, the government must discuss providing aid to North Korea on the condition that the two Koreas reach an agreement on ensuring the security of the dam. So far, inter-Korean economic cooperation has been implemented: The South provided aid to the North and made no demands in return. If the handling of the Geumgangsan Dam issue follows such a precedent, Seoul will certainly lose the support of its engagement policy from people criticizing the lack of reciprocity.

Pyeongyang must not look at the issue as the South's intervening in internal affairs. Clearly, the North is responsible for building the Geungangsan Dam, which disturbs the system of a northern tributary of the Han River and may collapse. If North Korea were in the same situation that the South faces, living under a gigantic water tank that might crumble any time, would it just stand by and do nothing about it?

The Ministry of Construction and Transportation plans to propose to the North a joint task force to manage rivers the two Koreas share. The North has no reason to oppose the proposal. Working together to ensure the safety of the Geumgangsan Dam may be the first case of economic cooperation in its real meaning.
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