Indiscreet remarksOn North Korean policy, the light-hearted, frivolous behavior by certain leading figures in the government have been always a problem.
If they ponder their words a little more thoroughly, they wouldn’t make hasty remarks that are soon regretted.
For example, a senior Blue House official recently said, “North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has recovered enough from a stroke to brush his own teeth.” This was said despite it being made publicly known that Kim was in such poor health that he could not walk normally.
The danger lies in the possibility that the remark could have been right. This could have endangered an anonymous information source in North Korea.
The government should have realized this, and must take this incident as a good lesson to them.
But it didn’t. Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee said at a press conference during the annual defense ministerial meeting between Seoul and Washington, “We should not display excessive interest in Kim Jong-il’s health. It will spoil him.” These remarks were careless and unreasonable.
The National Intelligence Service verified the state of Kim’s health at the National Assembly. After that, it leaked information on Kim’s health, almost as if the NIS was right beside him watching him closely.
In contrast, the governments of the United States, Japan, and China have been very reluctant to speculate about Kim’s health in public. They see discretion as the basis for information management and national relations.
The Korean government has been the major culprit behind such “excessive interest,” but it’s now telling us that the “people should not take an excessive interest in the issue.”
It is widely considered international practice to behave properly when an enemy is sick during battle. Therefore, Minister Lee’s remarks are improper, as he was in effect making cynical remarks about Kim’s health.
We are not saying that the government should not make any remarks about North Korea. We must take strong steps against North Korea’s unfair intervention in the South and the threat against us.
But there is no need to provoke the North unnecessarily. Such remarks do not correspond with the government’s basic North Korean policy, which calls for cooperation and mutually beneficial dialogue. Government officials must try to be more prudent in their remarks about North Korea.