In D.C., liberal civic groups get cold-shouldered

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In D.C., liberal civic groups get cold-shouldered

WASHINGTON - A group of liberal South Korean activists told U.S. officials and lawmakers they doubted a North Korean torpedo attack sunk a South Korean warship in March, but got a frosty reception.

A delegation from the South Korean Committee for Implementing June 15 Joint Declaration - an inter-Korean group established to fulfill the 2007 agreement by then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korea’s Kim Jong-il - paid a visit to the U.S. State Department and attended a forum at the U.S. Congress to convey its opinion.

Kim Sang-geun, the head of the committee, and Chung Hyun-back, a history professor at SungKyunKwan University and the head of the civic group People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, visited the State Department on Tuesday and met with Sung Kim, chief U.S. negotiator for the six-party talks to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and Ambassador Robert King, Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues. According to sources, Kim delivered a letter to the U.S. officials, expressing the group’s “disappointment” at the Barack Obama administration’s North Korea policy and urging Washington to have bilateral negotiations with Pyongyang as soon as possible.

Chung mentioned the March sinking of the Cheonan during the meeting. “The South Korean community has a different view from the government’s description of the Cheonan’s sinking,” she was quoted as saying by a participant in the meeting. “According to opinion polls, about 30 to 50 percent of Koreans do not trust the government’s conclusion. We hope the U.S. plays a role to resolve the difference.”

According to the source, the chief U.S. negotiator rebuffed the group’s argument about the Cheonan’s sinking. He told the visitors that an international investigative team’s conclusion was based on an objective and scientific investigation and that the U.S. fully trusts its findings.

He also said Washington is willing to talk to Pyongyang at any time if the regime changes its position. Sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council, he added, are just because the North staged the attack on the Cheonan.

The South Korean activists repeated their argument at the Korea Peace Forum, which took place at the Visitor Center in the U.S. Capitol later in the afternoon.

Chung said the U.S. government supported the “rash act” of the South Korean government, which took the matter to the UN Security Council, thus making the international community question the fairness of Washington as a global balancer.

Her argument, however, was rejected by a U.S. lawmaker. Congressman Eni Faleomavaega, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment, said in his speech that the international team’s objective and scientific survey and the subsequent conclusion of a North Koreans attack must be respected and trusted, adding that he is a supporter of the “Sunshine Policy” of the late former President Kim Dae-jung.

By Kim Jung-wook []
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