[EDITORIALS]Petty Squabbling in a Crisis

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[EDITORIALS]Petty Squabbling in a Crisis

It is quite a scene to watch the opposition and the ruling party attack each other over the North Korean ship's repeated incursions into South Korean waters. Over an important issue of national security, they are engaged in cheap squabbles. Although the government and the ruling party should bear primary responsibility for their lukewarm response toward North Korea's violations, they waste time by flying into a rage over valid criticism by the opposition party. Lee Hoi-chang, president of the Grand National Party, said that "the engagement policy toward North Korea should be based on firm security." "The navy should have warned, inspected and captured the intruders," he said. It is a reasonable criticism from a representative of the opposition party. Kim Joong-kwon, the leader of the Millen-nium Democratic Party, also called on the government to "respond strongly according to the operational military orders if it happens again." Mr. Lee urged President Kim Dae-jung to apologize for neglecting the national duty and to dismiss National Defense Minister Kim Dong-shin. He also said "For Chairman Kim Jong-il to visit Seoul when our security is at sake is meaningless." His points are reasonable, given the importance of the issue.

The government and the ruling party reacted too sensitively to the criticism. Starting with a press conference by the party chairman, it used all available occasions to launch full-scale attacks on the opposition and its president. They accused the opposition of "harming the spirit of the armed forces." Worst of all, they made personal attacks unrelated to the issue, saying "Nine relatives of Mr. Lee have not fulfilled their military duties," and "Is Mr. Lee saying we should make war?" In answer to that, the spokesmen and officials of the opposition rebuked, "Is the major enemy of the current administration the GNP or North Korea?"

Instead of devising security measures, the ruling camp is waging a war of emotions. Since it is such an important security issue, we hope they recover reason and work out a viable solution. The public is worried. Will they just squabble even should an actual war break out?

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