[EDITORIALS]Time for the North to movePresident Kim Dae-jung said publicly, "I was briefed that North Korea has showed a signal of restoring the Gyeongui Line. The North began refurbishing its construction quarters." Pyeongyang pulled out its troops from the construction site in Gaeseong for the connection of railroad lines between the North and South last May. The National Defense Ministry reported that North Korean soldiers reappeared at the site and have been repairing the quarters since the end of last year. The ministry thinks construction may resume.
The Unification Ministry was more cautious, throwing some cold water on the president's wishful thinking, based on the Defense Ministry report. But that information had not been screened by the National Security Council or the Unification Ministry before the president's announcement. That is a problem. Inter-Korean issues should not be monopolized by one ministry in order to impress the president. Even a small piece of information should be shared with related government agencies to come up with a more objective interpretation.
Of course we do not know yet which ministry's view is correct. If the Defense Ministry's forecast is correct, there will be a breakthrough in halted inter-Korean relations and U.S.-North Korean relations will improve. The North recently allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect its isotope production laboratory at the Yeongbyeon nuclear facility. Pyeongyang also requested Hyundai Asan Corporation to visit the North to discuss the limping Mount Geumgang tour business. It may be that those moves are connected with the possibility that Pyeongyang may restart work on the rail link.
The North needs Seoul's support more than ever to join the international community and develop its economy. Pyeongyang has stalled inter-Korean relations by blaming the Bush administration for its hard-line approach, but that strategy has reached the end of its usefulness. In order to get people to come to its spring festival and stage it successfully, the North must realize that inter-Korean relations should develop smoothly.
Pyeongyang should begin restoring the Gyeongui rail line; that will provide room for President Kim, who has been favorable to the North, to provide more help.