[EDITORIALS]Chung and unification

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[EDITORIALS]Chung and unification

Unification Minister Chung Dong-young submitted his resignation last week, a year and five months after he took office. There are mixed views about Mr. Chung’s achievements as one of the helmsmen of our foreign policy and national security affairs team. As unification minister, Mr. Chung also acted as the head of the National Security Council. While Mr. Chung’s efforts to promote interchanges with Pyongyang, which included a meeting with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il this year, are praised by some, others couldn’t help getting the impression that he was being manipulated by the North Koreans.
Mr. Chung, as head of the unification ministry, seemed to have been of the opinion that should he say anything to displease the North Koreans or refuse their demands, inter-Korean dialogue would die out and the peace would be broken.
Since Mr. Chung took office, Pyongyang has refused to talk with Seoul using such pretexts as South Korea’s refusal to pay tribute to the former North Korean leader Kim Il Sung and the South Korean government’s admission of North Korean refugees into the country. Mr. Chung had on several occasions made comments seemingly calculated to appease the North Koreans, suggesting at one point that Seoul did not understand how important these affairs were to the North Koreans.
While he said he sympathized with the long-term prisoners charged with espionage for the North based on humanitarian grounds, Mr. Chung was distant when it came to the matter of South Korean abductees or prisoners of war still held captive in the North. While he vowed to stand firm against both North Korea and the United States for the sake of our national interests, he only picked bones with his U.S. counterparts.
Such policies of Mr. Chung deepened the internal strife within the South and aggravated the tension between Seoul and Washington. North Korea, in particular, took advantage of this all-tolerant attitude of ours and took economic gifts from us while encouraging strife within our society. Even in their New Year’s editorial, North Korean newspapers called for the formation of a coalition against the conservatives in South Korean society and for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula.
As long as our government continues this all-tolerant attitude that Mr. Chung practiced, there will be no substantial progress in inter-Korean relations and only strife within South Korean society.
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