Inappropriate and riskySince the Park Geun-hye administration’s launch, North Korea has issued a series of threats. It finally pulled out all North Korean workers from the Kaesong Industrial Complex. As the crisis has reached a new peak, the opposition parties and some civic groups have pressured the Park government to immediately send an envoy and begin talks with the North, while criticizing Pyongyang’s moves.
But at this point, sending a special envoy to the North will only worsen the situation. It is not an appropriate resolution.
First, sending a special envoy will pardon the North for its wrongful actions. It will be a repeat of the undesirable pattern that continued for decades that the North would initiate a provocation and dialogue and get rewarded by the South.
Even during the escalated military tensions in the past, the Kaesong Industrial Complex was never suspended. And yet, Pyongyang recently decided to stop its operation with the ridiculous excuse that the South Korean media had been disrespectful of its regime. This is unacceptable and unlawful.
Pressuring the Park government to send an envoy and talk to the North in light of the circumstances allows the North’s strategy to succeed. From now on, we must react sternly to the North’s wrongful actions and use the carrot and stick properly to end the vicious cycle of inter-Korean relations.
Second, the past administrations had sent special envoys to create a breakthrough in the frozen inter-Korean relations or change the atmosphere. But the special envoy was not received as a messenger to start a negotiation. He was seen as a powerful broker who can accept the North’s excessive demands, and that tainted the true meaning of sending a special envoy.
The North has rejected receiving special envoys unless they are political heavyweights who can bring surprise gifts. Therefore, the political burden of sending a special envoy has become undeniably inflated. When a special envoy brings the North the gifts that it wants, he will instantly be used to distort the inter-Korean relationship, rather than becoming a problem solver.
Third, North Korea’s provocations are aimed to secure its status as a nuclear-armed state and dilute and nullify the international community’s efforts to impose sanctions on it. When we send a special envoy to improve our relationship with the North, such as normalizing the Kaesong Industrial Complex, we won’t see a short-term achievement unless we accept the North’s demands unconditionally.
Even if the two Koreas’ relations improve, sending a special envoy would weaken international motivation to punish the North, and it would hamper efforts to come up with a more powerful resolution to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. Unless we concentrate on stopping the North’s nuclear development, a special envoy - even if it is the United Nations secretary general - will only boomerang into nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula and turn the Korean people into hostages.
It is our hope to resolve the conflicts between the two Koreas and establish peace and prosperity on the peninsula. But dialogue and cooperation in the face of the North’s nuclear development are meaningless and dangerous. We must not waste our energy through bypassing the North’s strategic goal of boosting its nuclear arms capabilities. While maintaining a strong deterrence against the North, we must put our efforts into stopping the North from creating an internal split in the South with its propaganda.
Politicians and civic groups must also encourage the Ministry of Unification to function normally as a dialogue channel with the North.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
*The author is professor of North Korea studies at Korea University.
By Yoo Ho-yeol