Season 2 for inter-Korean talksAmerican TV shows that became popular in Korea, such as “Sex and the City,” “CSI,” “Friends” and “The X-Files,” all came in several seasons. About 24 weekly episodes are broadcast for the first season in a six-month period, and viewers anticipate the next season. Enough time is given between seasons so that the production team can rest, come up with creative ideas and prepare jam-packed episodes. It reflects the Western culture of pragmatism that understand the values of leisure and vacation as much as work.
While the nation has begun its summer vacation these days, the Unification Ministry and other government offices concerning North Korea remain tense. They are waiting for the North’s answer to the latest offer for the final round of talks on normalizing the Kaesong Industrial Complex and to prepare for the meeting, if it is realized. On the other hand, they also must prepare follow-up measures in case the industrial park will be shut down.
The South has issued an ultimatum to the North that the most recent offer for talks will be its last opportunity that the North must seize. So if the North does not react positively, it has to take necessary steps.
Despite six rounds of lower-level meetings, the Kaesong talks broke down on July 25. As the situation saw no signs of progress, the head of the North Korean delegation marched into the press center full of South Korean journalists and unveiled their draft of the agreement. It meant the North had no intentions to continue negotiations when it revealed the details of the closed-door talks to the press.
A cool-down period was needed for the two sides to stay apart and review strategies to find a breakthrough. But only three days later, the South Korean government issued the statement urging the resumption of the talks. “If the North does not reply, we are forced to make a bold decision,” the statement said. It seemed the break was over and officials’ summer travel plans were ruined.
Of course, the government wanted to utilize the momentum of negotiations in order to resume operations of the factories as soon as possible. The government probably had to take into account the frustration of 123 companies that invested in Kaesong. But the situation needs room to breathe. The government needs to rethink whether it’s obsessed with the idea that “continuing talks is good, while a breakdown is evil,” and ponder if it made the offer for the sake of having talks.
Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae hosted an urgent press conference to issue the statement on July 28, the day after the North’s July 27 “Victory Day,” which Pyongyang announced grand commemoration ceremonies for the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice agreement.
The North Korean officials in charge of South Korean affairs must have been shocked while enjoying their Sunday afternoon after completing their events. The North has remained silent about the South’s offer for days and some joked that the North Koreans were upset about the South’s ambush on Sunday. As the North’s silence continued, senior Unification Ministry officials left for their summer vacations one after another, and Minister Ryoo is scheduled to start his vacation this weekend.
They will need to rest comfortably. Associates of Ryoo, after meeting with him recently, all said the minister looked exhausted, perhaps because of the stress from work.
Ryoo only spent five months in office, and it is not desirable for him to be exhausted already. He should take a rest and spend quality time with his family to recharge his energy in order to plan a creative approach, because we need a second season for inter-Korean talks.
*The author is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By LEE YOUNG-JONG