[EDITORIALS]Eager for propaganda?A group of people who work for 22 private organizations that actively support North Korea are to visit that country in big numbers from today until Oct. 15. The total number, confirmed by the Ministry of Unification and the organizations, is 9,200 people. Most of them are to stay in Pyongyang for two days. Although there have been numerous exchanges between the two Koreas, it is unprecedented that such a large number of people will visit Pyongyang at a single time.
For the promotion of inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation, it is essential that the number of exchanges and visits be expanded. There is no reason for us to reject a series of large visits to the North. We rather hope that the large visits will provide an opportunity to promote more active inter-Korean exchanges.
But we worry that indiscriminate visits will be used by North Korea for political purposes or internal propaganda. It is regrettable that most of the organizations and people participating in the visit have accepted the North’s demand that they attend the Arirang Festival, paying a fee as high as $300 per person. The organizations that promote the visits insist that the purpose is not to watch the show.
Some organizations claim that they plan to visit historical sites in Pyongyang as a part of their commemoration of the 60th anniversary of national liberation. Others say they plan to inspect distribution of food and other material the South has provided to the North. It is evident, however, that the bulk of the 9,200 visitors will watch the performance. The visit has turned out to be an event organized to accommodate the North’s request to send people to watch the show.
The same performance was also held in Pyongyang in 2002. At that time, the theme was solidarity under the North Korean system and the personality cult of Kim Jong-il. North Koreans say that they have separated politics from the performance this time, but we can only wait and see.
If the visits are for participation in an event for solidarity under the North Korean system and the idolization of Kim Jong-il, they should be reconsidered. It does not make sense that South Koreans rush to the North en masse to watch the North’s propaganda performance. The government must confirm the theme of the performance and take stern action if it is a political performance. There is a line that should not be crossed in inter-Korean exchanges.