Lifting the May 24 sanctions

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Lifting the May 24 sanctions

Amid mixed signs from North Korea after its bold high-profile visit to the South was followed by provocations through military and rhetoric, President Park Geun-hye has kept her neutral tone. Despite what she called the “dual nature” of inter-Korean relations, she said Seoul is open to dialogue. “Dialogue is needed even at war time and dialogue must be continued to ease tensions in the Korean Peninsula and establish lasting peace,” she said after North Korea violated maritime borders in the West Sea and fired shots at balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang leaflets sent toward the North by South Korean activists.

Some of the shots landed close to military units and civilian areas near the demilitarized zone. Pyongyang blamed Seoul for jeopardizing the reconciliatory mood. The two Koreas have agreed to hold high-level talks later this month or early November during a surprise visit by the second and third-most powerful men from Pyongyang on the last day of the Asian Games in Incheon.

If we don’t demonstrate enormous patience, no dialogue is possible, and without dialogue the two Koreas cannot seek a common path to cooperation and peace. The Unification Ministry said it will take “safety” actions if needed to prevent provoking North Korea with propaganda leaflets sent by civilian groups. Pyongyang should keep its promise to hold high-level talks. It must not add conditions to reopening dialogue.

The president also suggested the possibility of easing a series of sanctions imposed since the deadly attacks by the North in 2010. She said officials of the two Koreas should discuss the sanctions with “responsible attitudes and sincere dialogue.” South Korea has banned all economic aid and commerce with North Korea except for the joint industrial venture in Kaesong. It is the first time the president has hinted at easing sanctions. We are happy to see that the president is flexible on North Korean issues.

The Inter-Korean relationship has been at a standstill for the past five years after the government ceased economic cooperation and the exchanges of goods. Joint use of waters also have been banned. China quickly filled our place and has become the North’s biggest economic patron. We have become a peripheral country on the North Korean issue. The time has come to ease sanctions and restart tourism to North Korea. Pyongyang should stop its provocations and meet Seoul halfway for a dramatic turn in inter-Korean relations. The two countries could jointly celebrate the 70th anniversary of liberation next year if the sanctions are removed. JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 14, Page 34

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