Frustrating editorial

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Frustrating editorial

The annual lengthy editorial was published in the North Korean regime’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper yesterday. The publication is the official newspaper of the military and young party members. The New Year editorial usually offers some insight in the direction of the country’s policies at home and abroad.

This year’s piece made unusually frequent remarks about economic issues, including the need for self-aided economic growth. It skipped the usual tirades against the United States and its presence in South Korea and reaffirmed that it would maintain a hard-line stance toward the Lee Myung-bak administration.

The North’s stance is more frustrating than ever before. Yesterday’s editorial said Pyongyang will “never tolerate any elements that deviate” from the principles of the June 15 and Oct. 4 joint declarations made at the two Koreas’ summits in 2000 and 2007 with Seoul’s two former liberal presidents. This policy means that the North is unlikely to make any major policy changes, indicating that Pyongyang still is not ready to deal with the new administration in Seoul.

Yet Seoul has been adopting an increasingly progressive tone to its policies on the North over the past few months, slowly focusing more on dialogue with Pyongyang. But the North is showing no signs of moving on. It’s like a hedgehog with its prickles unfurled ready to puncture an approaching hand.

If the latest development is by any chance aimed at causing political disruptions within Korea and weakening the public’s unity, as the North did during the Cold War, it would be fair to call the editorial anachronistic.

We strongly urge the North to take constructive steps toward building better inter-Korean ties. Seoul has to make an effort, too, to resume talks with Pyongyang. Its political slogan “improvement of inter-Korean relations based on principles” should be more than just an excuse to justify its lack of policies aimed at thawing frozen inter-Korean ties.

The usual tirades and hostile remarks toward Washington were conspicuously absent from yesterday’s editorial, indicating Pyongyang’s expectation that it can build better Washington-Pyongyang ties with the incoming Obama administration.

This is a positive step since Obama has repeatedly emphasized a need for “tough and direct” dialogue with Pyongyang. But such progress can be made only when the North is willing and determined to unravel its nuclear issues with Washington in a transparent way that leaves no questions unanswered.

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