[EDITORIALS]Television and unification

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[EDITORIALS]Television and unification

As part of a broadcast exchange between the two Koreas, performances arranged by the Korean Broadcasting System and the Munhwa Broadcasting Corp. in Pyeongyang are reported to have been major successes. A 40-minute edited version of the MBC performance with the Korean popular singer Lee Mi-ja was carried by North Korea's Central Television. The joint performance on Sept. 21 by the KBS Symphony Orchestra and North Korea's National Orchestra was carried live. The broadcast of the more popular folk music concert to North Korean homes, with its potential appeal to the public, is a particularly encouraging event.

But the accomplishments are clouded by yet more questions about possible payoffs to the North. There has been suspicion that there may have been payments in addition to the official expenses to make the events possible.

There is no secret about the wide gap in the emotional and psychological makeup of the two societies after more than half a century of division. The recent performances are perfectly acceptable in their roles in helping to narrow the gap despite the costs involved. Assistance to those who in effect share the same heritage with us is also acceptable. But the costs must be born only through transparent processes and never through unofficial channels intended to further the broadcasters' interests. Officials with the broadcasting companies should also be warned of excessive competition to capitalize on the opportunity created by the spirit of exchange.

There are three crucial elements to reconciliation between the North and South -- exchange of people, commercial trade and telecommunications -- and broadcasting is at the core of the third. It is generally agreed that television helped maintain the national consensus through the years of German division and the exchange of journalists helped narrow their differences. On the Korean Peninsula, there has been considerable progress in discussions for greater broadcasting cooperation. Further cooperation, including coproduction of broadcast programs, is planned for this year. We urge the broadcasting companies to refrain from vying for one-shot events and shift their emphasis to creating a longer-term campaign that would help bring the two societies together.

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