[EDITORIALS]Resist the North’s bullyingNorth Korea demanded that Seoul reduce the size of South Korea’s delegation to the “June 15 Grand Unification Festival,” a commemorative event for the inter-Korean summit in 2000 to be held in Pyongyang. Both sides agreed earlier on a total of 685 people, including a 70-member government delegation, but the North demanded the number be reduced to 220. How can we have a meaningful dialogue with the North when it breaks agreements even before the signature ink is dry?
In a sense, our side is responsible for the abrogation this time. Because this incident clearly reveals how much North Korea looks down on us. The unification festival is an annual event that includes participation by civic organizations from the South. For participation, however, Seoul proposed, “We will provide 200,000 tons of fertilizer, so you should accept Unification Minister Chung Dong-young’s visit.” At such a proposal, what will the North think of us? By showing the cabinet minister in charge of North Korea policy is so anxious to visit Pyongyang, didn’t we give the North an assurance that “Seoul won’t dare to reject our side, even if we break an agreement.”
The government’s response to the North is even more regrettable. It will first request that the North honor the agreement. When the North rejects the request, it will agonize over whether to participate or not. This is not a case to agonize over. The government must first criticize the North for breaking the promise. If agreements are not honored, the government delegation shouldn’t visit the North. If the North breaks agreements without hesitation, what will it discuss and agree on?
The government judged that Mr. Chung’s visit will provide a chance for making progress in inter-Korean affairs including the North Korean nuclear problem. The cancellation has shown the naivety of our government. At a recent working-level meeting, the North Koreans kept silent on the nuclear problem. There is no reason for changing their attitude in a matter of a few days just because a cabinet minister is visiting. Rather, it is feared that our side will be swept into their logic of inter-Korean cooperation.
The idea that the unification minister visits Pyongyang with hundreds of civilians is itself strategically a wrong decision. Eventually, ending up betrayed by the North after providing it with much needed fertilizer is present inter-Korean relations. The government shouldn’t be dragged around by the North any longer.