Seoul isn’t buying Jong-un’s plan

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Seoul isn’t buying Jong-un’s plan

Responding to the conciliatory gesture in North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s address, the South Korean government told Pyongyang that it was skeptical of his sincerity.

South Korea’s Ministry of Unification issued an unusual statement yesterday, entitled “Our Position on North Korea’s New Year’s Message,” with detailed explanations on why it could not trust Kim’s proposal to improve inter-Korean relations.

In his New Year’s Day speech on Wednesday, broadcast by North Korean state media, Kim proposed to mend relations with Seoul to ease military tensions for the reunification of the two Koreas. Officials in Seoul analyzed that the tone of his speech was a bit low-key, without the use of abusive words against the Park Geun-hye administration, compared to his 2013 address.

However, the Unification Ministry, which is in charge of all inter-Korean business and interactions, said the proposal was hypocritical.

“Last year, North Korea proposed to abandon hostile policies and move toward reconciliation, unity and unification last year,” Kim Eui-do, the spokesman of the ministry, read out a statement in his name at a press meeting yesterday. “But they continued acts hindering improvement of inter-Korean relations, like a nuclear weapons test, military threats, shuttering the Kaesong Industrial Complex, and slandering and insulting.

“This year, [Kim Jong-un] once again called for ‘an atmosphere to mend inter-Korean relations,’ but we can’t help doubting its sincerity,” he said.

Rather than a verbal proposal, the spokesman urged Pyongyang to show a “sincere attitude” through making efforts toward denuclearization by giving up its nuclear weapons program.

The spokesman pointed out the “inconsistency” of North Korea, as the leader ostensibly proposed mending relations with the South while simultaneously continuing emotional condemnations and threats against Seoul.

In fact, on Dec. 12, the day when Kim Jong-un’s powerful uncle Jang Song-thaek was executed, North Korea abruptly accepted a proposal from South Korea to hold high-level government talks for the jointly-run Kaesong Industrial Complex.

However, just days after progress on the complex, the regime sent a hostile message to the Blue House on Dec. 19 and threatened to “launch a strike on South Korea without warning.”

South Korea’s rare response to the North’s New Year’s message came amid growing expectations about the rosy future of inter-Korean relations with the conciliatory move by Kim Jong-un.

“We assume that there were various interpretations and speculations on the New Year’s message [of North Korea],” the spokesman said at the briefing.

“The reason why we issued this statement is to face the cold reality, and not make a hasty conclusion on the intentions of North Korea.”

BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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