North sneers at idea of an apology

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North sneers at idea of an apology

North Korea denied it apologized for land mine blasts that maimed two South Korean patrol guards earlier this month, claiming its expression of “regret” in an agreement with Seoul last week was nowhere near an apology.

“By definition, an apology means someone asks for forgiveness for wrongful behavior,” said an unnamed spokesman for the North’s National Defense Commission, its highest decision-making body, in a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday.

“The South’s interpretation of regret [expressed in the agreement] as an apology is proof of its ignorance in understanding the meaning of Korean,” he continued in a mocking tone.

Regret, it said, was “no more than an expression meaning I am sorry that the case occurred.”

Pyongyang accused two negotiators from the South of distorting facts by claiming they had extracted an apology at the negotiating table.

Director of National Security Kim Kwan-jin and Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo took part in round-the-clock talks at the border village of Panmunjom with their North Korean counterparts Hwang Pyong-so, considered to be the second most powerful man in North Korea after supreme leader Kim Jong-un, and Kim Yang-gon, the top official in charge of inter-Korean relations for Pyongyang.

The four drew up the six-point agreement after 43 hours of talks that put a halt to tensions on the peninsula that brought the two rivals to the brink of armed conflict.

“National Security Adviser Kim Kwan-jin is spreading rumors that he received an apology for the land mine blasts as well as an assurance from us that we would not commit such provocations in the future,” said the North.

President Park Geun-hye’s approval rating soared in the days after the conclusion of the talks largely thanks to the public perception that her firm stance on the matter led to the agreement and the expression of regret, which North Korea rarely does.

Although the term “regret” fell short of a direct apology as initially demanded by Seoul, officials in the South have portrayed Pyongyang’s use of the word as a tacit acknowledgment of responsibility and apology for the Aug. 4 land mine blasts, which led the South Korean military to resume a psychological warfare propaganda campaign via loudspeakers along the border for the first time in 11 years.

The South Korean government has also credited itself for leaving open the possibility of resuming the propaganda broadcasts by stating in the agreement that it would keep the loudspeakers unplugged as long as there was “no unusual activity along the border.”

In addition to its denial of an apology, Pyongyang also blasted Seoul for describing the six-point agreement as a victory for President Park’s North Korea policy.

It said there could be nothing more pathetic and shallow on the part of Seoul to call the joint agreement its “unilateral victory.”

Pyongyang also bristled at Seoul for what it called a “dishonest demeanor” for blaming the North for causing the crisis by planting land mines in the southern part of the demilitarized zone.

Responding to the North’s argument, Jeong Joon-hee, spokesman of the Ministry of Unification, said it was not the time for the South to start “wrangling over what the North says [in regard to the agreement], but time for both sides to begin delivering on the agreement.”

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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