[EDITORIALS]The fruits of arroganceHyundai Group’s chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun said yesterday that she had reached a crossroads and had to decide whether to continue with inter-Korean exchanges.
The comment, from “A Letter to Korean Citizens” on the group’s Web site, came after North Korea’s demand for a reduction in South Korean tourists to Mount Kumgang after Hyundai fired Kim Yoon-kyu as chief executive of Hyundai Asan Corp. North Korea has also refused to discuss with Hyundai proposed tours to Kaesong and Mount Paektu, and invited Lotte Tours of South Korea to run tours to Kaesong despite a long-standing agreement to reserve those rights for Hyundai Group.
South Koreans have supported Mount Kumgang tourism to keep inter-Korean exchanges going and ease tensions, even when political and military relations were tense. During discussions with North Korean officials, we have endured their unreasonable demands and sometimes threats because, in the big picture, we felt the tourism deal would go a long way to ease the atmosphere on the peninsula.
But such benevolence by the South has been abused frequently by the North, and as attested by the recent turn of events, the North is now meddling in a South Korean company’s personnel decisions. Ms. Hyun’s public letter puts the problem out in the open. Unless we can put an end to North Korea’s condescending behavior, any long-term North-South exchanges will be impossible.
But South Korea may well have fed the North’s arrogance. In the name of peacemaking, we have accepted North Korea’s demands unconditionally. Former President Kim Dae-jung’s advice to the North that they should not expect 100 percent fulfillment, but rather seek 80 percent satisfaction, was good advice.
Inter-Korean exchanges should benefit both sides. The South can only cover up so much of the North’s irrational demands. Many of us feel angry and frustrated at the North’s arrogance and the South’s servile approach. Ms. Hyun said, “Even if any of you feel our decision about a corrupt employee was wrong, I would still choose honest conscience over corruption.” She obviously shares our frustration.
Seoul must act more firmly against the North’s meddling in the affairs of our nation’s corporations, and North Korea should start being reasonable.