The reunions must go on

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The reunions must go on

North Korea delivered very bad news over the long Chuseok holiday. It abruptly announced a unilateral postponement of the reunions - slated for this week - of the families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War. The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland came up with unfathomable excuses for the deferment of the long-awaited meetings. After our Ministry of Unification issued a statement denouncing the North’s decision as an “action against humanity,” the North Korean committee counterattacked our government by calling it an “inhuman criminal group.” It is utterly regrettable that Pyongyang has splashed cold water on the heartfelt aspirations of those families, particularly senior citizens in their 80s, who have been waiting to see their relatives across the border before they die.

The North Korean committee cited the “unbearable aggressiveness of the conservative forces in the South” as the major reason for its decision to put off the reunions. The committee lambasted far-right groups for attributing the recent rapprochement between Seoul and Pyongyang to the conservative Park Geun-hye administration’s principled approach to the North. Pyongyang seems to believe that Seoul disregarded its “sincere efforts to improve the ties.” But it is simply childish to try to take full credit for an improvement in bilateral relations. After all, it takes two to tango.

The committee also defined the ongoing investigations of lawmakers of the far-left Unified Progressive Party, including its leader Lee Seok-ki, as a “witch hunt to suppress proponents of liberal democracy.” The committee said it can’t expect a dialogue for better ties under such circumstances. We are dumbfounded at the North’s ludicrous logic. If Representative Lee and others prove to be linked to North Korea in plotting a rebellion against the state in the course of the prosecution’s investigations and subsequent trials, North Korea must apologize to us, not criticize. On the other hand, if Lee and his aides are not connected to the North, the committee can just say so.

Political pundits raised suspicions over the real intention behind the sudden postponement of the reunions. Pyongyang probably needed to vent its anger over the gloomy prospects for resumptions of tours to Mount Kumgang or the six-party talks. We are dismayed by the North’s narrow-mindedness. Pyongyang’s decision to shelve the reunions for emotional reasons cannot be justified. If the North is really concerned about relieving the separated families of their ever-deepening pains - not about earning foreign currency - it must prove it.

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