North Korea snubs us againWhen will the kidnapped victims and prisoners-of-war held captive in North Korea ever get to see their loved ones again? In the inter-Korean Red Cross meeting last week to discuss the arrangements for reunion meetings between family members separated by the Korean War, North Korea snubbed Seoul’s request that kidnapped South Korean victims and prisoners of war from the Korean War assumed to be living on the north side of the 38th parallel also be allowed to meet with their family members. North Korea went as far as to warn the South Korean side to make sure the kidnappings and the POWs do not become a social issue.
The Roh Moo-hyun government seems to have two answers to this situation. One, if we have patience and continue to increase our aid to the North Koreans, maybe one day they will react favorably toward us. Two, we must try to understand the North Korean side. As such, the government representatives avoiding using the words “POWs” and “kidnapped victims” in the meetings with the North Koreans. The government has consistently followed that senseless guideline, which goes against the basics of international negotiations.
It was the same during the Red Cross meeting. Our government failed to show any strategy or tactics to follow up on its entreaty. Our negotiators should have made it clear to the North Koreans that unless they show reciprocity, they will not gain anything from us either. Instead, our government did the opposite. It announced all sorts of aid programs to North Korea amounting to some 300 billion won ($323 million). It even went against its own principle that we will provide rice aid only if the North Koreans keep their side of the nuclear accord made on Feb. 13. No wonder the North Koreans feel no urge to show any reaction to such humanitarian issues as kidnapped victims and POWs, let alone international accords.
A few days ago, the remains of U.S. soldiers who died in the Korean War were sent home after a solemn and honorable ceremony. The Japanese government is making every effort it can to bring back kidnapped Japanese citizens in North Korea. This is the way a government acts when it sees protecting the lives and properties of its citizens as its primary duty. Yet in the case of our government, it acts like it is “not its business” for fear of provoking the North Koreans. Family members of the kidnapped victims and POWs have even publicly decried that they will no longer put hope in their government. The government should no longer turn a deaf ear to the desperate pleas of these families.
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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