[EDITORIALS]Why is there all the secrecy?Several cases have been revealed recently in which sodium cyanide produced in South Korea, which can be used for the production of chemical weapons, has ended up in North Korea.
The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy announced yesterday that a local company exported 107 tons of the substance illegally to North Korea via China. The same year, the exportation of 70 tons of the same material from Thailand to North Korea was discovered by U.S. intelligence.
Sodium cyanide can be used to make sarin and tabun, deadly nerve agents. For this reason, the Australian Group, an informal network of countries that try to cut down the risk of chemical and biological weapon proliferation, has said this material requires close monitoring.
Although it’s not formally written down, it’s forbidden to export sodium cyanide to countries such as North Korea that are not trusted by the international community. Nevertheless, the large exports of the substance to North Korea indicates that there is a huge gap in the monitoring system. Allowing such dangerous material to slip through to North Korea is suicidal, and the South Korean government is largely responsible for it.
Most important, the government’s actions raise many questions. Although the government knew all along about the illegal exports, it chose to be silent. In the case that involves Thailand, only a lawmaker’s actions prompted the government to acknowledge the incident.
It was only after the press reported on a 107-ton shipment from South Korean, did the government hastily arrange a briefing on the case. Moreover, although the government reported the incident at a general meeting of the Australian Group in June, it chose not to tell its own people about it.
The government needs to clearly explain why it has kept the incident under wraps. Furthermore, how the substance will be used in North Korea should also be made clear. Recently, past secretive incidents, such as the enriched uranium experiments, have rattled and confused Koreans, and this latest case only adds to the confusion and anxiety. The government must investigate whether there are additional cases. It shouldn’t try to wrap up the truth with belated excuses and shoddy explanations. If needed, a new monitoring system should be introduced at major Korean missions abroad.