Profiting from threats

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Profiting from threats

Pyongyang yesterday notified Seoul that as of Dec. 1, it will discontinue South Korean tourism to Kaesong as well as the freight service between Kaesong and Bongdong.

The North added that it will also block overland passage by business professionals from the South through the demilitarized zone, meaning almost all doors to exchange and cooperation between the two Koreas will be closed. Only a small number of workers will be allowed through to keep the Kaesong Industrial Complex going.

All of these moves are seen as nothing but the usual threats Pyongyang issues in order to profit from rising tensions.

Pyongyang’s hard-line stance seems to derive from its calculation that a part of South Korean society may give in to such intimidation, and that it can also take advantage of the possibility that the incoming Obama administration may seek direct dialogue with the North.

However, North Korea should realize that such assumptions are miscalculations. It is unlikely that the Obama administration will recognize the North as a reliable partner when Pyongyang always does just what it wants, and breaks established agreements and promises on a whim.

The North should know that such a haughty attitude will even make people who have been relatively tolerant of the country end up shunning it.

With its recent actions, Pyongyang has essentially given up its right to urge Seoul to implement the June 15 and Oct. 4 joint declarations.

It is the North that is violating the principle stated in the Oct. 4 agreement, which says disputes should be settled through dialogue and negotiation.

It is very likely that inter-Korean relations will be tense for a while. Even if the South makes some concessions at this point, it is unlikely that the already strained relationship will be smoothed out anytime soon.

Pyongyang’s gradual increase of pressure on Seoul over the past several months on the Kaesong Industrial Complex and other inter-Korean projects indicates that the North also finds it tricky to implement hard-line policies toward the South all at once.

Therefore, it is now advisable for the government to stick to its guns in dealing with Pyongyang, while being cautious not to make unnecessary trouble with the North.
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