[LETTERS to the editor]Reporters don’t ask tough questionsHalfway through the South-North Summit last week, this commentator stood before the microphone during the Oct. 3 morning press briefing and plainly asked Blue House spokesman Kim Jeong-seop: “There is no such thing as a free lunch, especially when dining with [North Korean] chairman Kim. What incentive was provided to North Korea to host the summit?”
To paraphrase, his reply was “no comment.” Nervous chuckles arose from the crowd of roughly 400 other journalists present. But no one followed up.
Newsmax reports that for the 2000 Pyongyang summit attended by then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, the Blue House arranged to secretly transfer $1.7 billion northward.
North Korea spent the windfall on strengthening its military capabilities, including the purchase of 40 MiG fighter jets, a submarine and special components for nuclear weapons ― some of which were perhaps used for the atomic bomb tested last year.
Since that payoff scandal, Seoul has clamored for and somehow persuaded stubborn Pyongyang to hold another joint summit.
As transpired during the paid-for 2000 parley, politicians again stoked pan-Korean spirits and signed a wide-ranging agreement.
Visiting South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and Chairman Kim clasped their hands in the air like celebrity prizefighters.
It is not surprising that Roh’s trip North included a delegation of several wealthy South Korean heads of conglomerates, including Hyundai Group ― the same giant firm that in 2000 transferred a “brotherly love” payment of $500 million to North Korea.
None of the recent expensive lunches in Pyongyang have received the scrutiny that they deserve, despite the precedent of major payments to North Korea.
Reporters Without Borders insists that South Korea has a freer press environment than the United States, yet few local reporters are earning their pay by asking the big, necessary questions ― especially when enjoying government-funded briefing rooms.
Collin Baber, Seoul