Say what you will to Pyongyang

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Say what you will to Pyongyang

On Saturday, North Korea harshly criticized President Park Geun-hye in a statement by the spokesman of the National Defense Commission’s policy bureau. He used raw language, from the usual “puppet ruler” and “extreme confrontation” to “wicked speech and conduct” and “aggressive woman’s power.”

It is clear that Pyongyang wants to belittle the female president. North Korea is very creative in coming up with new attacks. Recently, the main opposition Democratic Party made a good point on the North. The opposition leader Kim Han-gill said in a meeting on Monday, “It is very wrong to criticize President Park with provocative words” and “all South Korean citizens feel insulted.”

It is not news that North Korea makes attacks against the South Korean leader. When the Lee Myung-bak administration was just launched in early 2008, the Rodong Sinmun called him “Lee Myung-bak, the traitor.” When Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun were in office, they were also severely attacked. “Kim Dae-jung and Kim Young-sam are evil twins,” it said.

When the Roh administration did not allow a delegation to visit the North for the 10th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s death, Pyongyang claimed that Roh “is against heaven’s will.” North Korea’s attack on the South Korean president is a two-pronged strategy to pressure Seoul to change its North Korean policy and to stir up the public and create an internal division.

Of course, the Democratic Party’s North Korean policy values “talks” unlike the Blue House and the Saenuri Party. They claim that Seoul needs to be more proactive to offer conditions and methods to resume dialogue. On Tuesday, the DP argued that Seoul should engage in “talks for talks’ sake.” But you would be wrong to think that the party would remain a spectator of North Korea’s shameless criticism even when it stands by the Sunshine Policy as the basis of the inter-Korean relationship. Whether it is conservative or liberal, the Democratic Party is responsible for representing the overall common sense of the citizens, just like the ruling party. It makes the opposition party distinguished from progressive civil groups.

Because it is an opposition party, it sometimes needs to speak up on behalf of the Blue House and the ruling party. At the Korea-U.S. summit between President Kim Dae-jung and his U.S. counterpart George W. Bush in March 2001, Bush called Kim “this man.” The Grand National Party’s Hong Sa-deok sent an open letter to the White House, “Without a proper explanation, the remark could hurt the pride of the Koreans.” If the ruling party took action, it may lead to tension in the Korea-U.S. relations, so the opposition politician stepped in and took the heat.

It may be natural for opposition leader Kim to criticize Pyongyang’s harsh remarks. Until now, the Democratic Party has not made such moves, and no one had seriously considered its role. The DP is said to be in trouble. A way to get out of the crisis certainly includes clearer action on the North.

The author is a deputy political and international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Chae Byung-gun

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