[EDITORIALS]Too quick to explainNorth Korea was swift in making its position known on the allegations that more than 220 billion won ($200 million in 2000) was transferred by Hyundai Merchant Marine Co. and following it up with some aggressive rhetoric against the South. The swiftness, if anything, fuels our suspicions about the affair even more. Pyeongyang had taken an entirely different approach when the Grand National Party raised the allegations before the presidential election; it was a fabrication and a conspiracy, Radio Pyeongyang said back then. Now there has been an about-face in a very timely way, and we are puzzled by the reaction.
The deputy chairman of the North Korean Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, Ri Jong-hyok, has told the South Korean broadcast network SBS that the transfer was a normal transaction between Hyundai and the North Korean committee and it is nothing but arrogant conspiracy to tie it with the June 15, 2000, summit between the two Koreas. The statement by a senior official of the peace committee, which promotes exchange programs with the South, is an official position by the North, and it is enough to come across as an attempt by Pyeongyang to aid a troubled Kim Dae-jung administration. It is also unprecedented for the North to be so specific to explain that the funds were charges for tours, railroads and communications, which also supports the suggestion that Pyeongyang is trying to help the South Korean administration.
North Korea went on to urge that the South should pull the plug on family reunions and the Gaeseong industrial project if the issue is so serious. There is a common thread here with what President Kim Dae-jung has said about not putting the issue to judicial scrutiny and President-elect Roh Moo-hyun’s call for a “political solution.” Mr. Ri also charged that the allegation was a challenge by anti-unification elements and the extreme-right in the South. That was followed by the peace committee spokesman reiterating the blaming of acts by anti-unification factions. The argument suggests an attempt to create a division in the South.
How the North has treated Hyundai is also greatly suspicious. The North may think that it can take the exchange program hostage and tailor the South to its liking; this is a mistake. It should not expect to have true exchange with us by switching positions or issuing threats. And the government should respond decisively against this kind of tactic by the North.