[EDITORIALS]Show some backbone

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[EDITORIALS]Show some backbone

The working-level agreements made at Mount Geumgang are a positive step toward resuming the long-stalled ministerial dialogue between the two Koreas. Ministers will meet next week, and there is good news concerning other government-to-government talks, North Korea's participation in the Busan Asian Games and more reunions of families separated by the Korean War. If the agreements are implemented as planned, inter-Korean relations will improve dramatically. It all depends on the North.

Until now, Pyeongyang has habitually provoked us by coming to an agreement and then balking at its implementation. Seoul has indulged Pyeongyang in such childish petulance. The government must come down hard on the North to ensure that responsibility for the June 29 naval battle is fixed. The North should admit its wrongdoing this time and act responsibly in the future. At the working-level talks, the South Korean delegates demanded that the North admit that it provoked the battle, apologize, punish those responsible, promise there will be no more such incidents and demand condolences for the southern victims. The North replied that its expression of regret on July 25 was a serious action, adding that it had lost more men than the South. Our delegates pressed hard as to why the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland issued a statement claiming that the South initiated the clash. They received no reply.

The North hinted that it had punished those responsible, but those words did not make it into the final communique. The South is partly responsible for such omissions, because it only pays attention to reaching agreements; the North is more responsible because it is more interested in saving face than in keeping agreements.

It would be well for Pyeongyang to remember that it is no longer possible for the government to monopolize North Korea policy in the South. Unless the people support the move, Seoul will not be able to send rice to the North. The next big test is the military meeting Tuesday at Panmunjeom to discuss the naval battle; then we will have a better idea of what Pyeongyang's intentions are.
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