Kang flubs it (KOR)

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Kang flubs it (KOR)

We are dumbfounded at what happened during the National Assembly’s annual auditing of the government. On Wednesday, the first day of the audit, the focus was on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha was asked by a ruling party lawmaker if she had “any intention to ease sanctions on North Korea.” She answered that the Foreign Ministry is reviewing the issue with related government ministries. After her remarks stirred controversy, she apologized by saying, “What I mean is that related ministries would always be considering the possibility of easing sanctions.”

As the issue of easing sanctions on the North should be handled by the Unification Ministry, not the Foreign Ministry, Kang should have refrained from answering the question. The May 24 sanctions were imposed by the conservative Lee Myung-bak administration in 2010 shortly after North Korea sank our Cheonan warship in the West Sea.

Kang came up with such a shortsighted answer after Rep. Lee Hae-chan, chairman of the ruling Democratic Party, asked if she was willing to ease the May 24 sanctions, which include a ban on visits to North Korea except for the Kaesong Industrial Complex and Mount Kumgang tours and a prohibition of inter-Korean exchanges, including investments in the North. Before asking the question to Kang, Rep. Lee, who accompanied President Moon Jae-in last month on his visit to North Korea for his third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, said, “We saw many Chinese tourists there in Pyongyang. Why can’t South Koreans go to Mt. Kumgang? Is that because of the current administration’s adherence to the May 24 sanctions?”

The problem was the way Kang replied. In an interview with the Washington Post a few days before U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to Pyongyang, she also sparked controversy by asking Washington to withhold its request for North Korea to submit a list of its nuclear weapons to achieve the goal of denuclearization. Kang was criticized for trying to represent North Korea in the denuclearization talks.

The question and answer session between Lee and Kang can give the rest of the world the message that South Korea is trying hard to ease sanctions on North Korea. Even if the May 24 sanctions are eased, its effect will be quite limited.

We can’t violate international sanctions. Sanctions are the very leverage we have to denuclearize the North. If the Moon administration believes Pyongyang will more actively denuclearize as long we show sincerity, that’s wishful thinking.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 11, Page 30

너무 가벼운 외교 장관의 5.24 조치 해제 발언
국회 국정감사 첫날인 어제 외교부 국정감사에서 한심한 상황이 발생했다. 강경화 장관이 5·24 대북제제 조치 해제와 관련해 “관계부처와 검토 중”이라고 했다가 논란이 일자 “범정부 차원에서 검토하고 있다는 말은 아니었다. 말이 너무 앞섰다면 죄송하다”고 사과했다. 5·24 조치 주무부처는 통일부다. 외교장관이 할 말도 아니었고, 북한의 천안함 폭침으로 지정한 대북 제재인 5·24 조치를 북한의 사과가 없는 상황에서 결코 가볍게 언급할 사안이 아니었다.
강 장관은 더불어민주당 이해찬 대표가 “평양에 가 보니 중국 관광객이 많더라. 우리가 금강산 관광을 못하는 것은 제재 대상이라서가 아니라 5·24 조치 때문 아닌가”라고 묻자 이같이 답했다. 두 사람은 지난달 남북 정상회담 때 백두산에 올랐을 때의 “감동”까지 주고받으며 묻고 답했다. 강 장관의 가벼운 처신은 이번만이 아니다. 폼페이오 미 국무장관의 방북을 앞두고 인터뷰를 통해 북한에 대한 ‘핵신고’ 요구를 “보류해야 한다”고 주장해 논란을 빚지 않았는가.
강 장관과 집권당 이해찬 대표의 문답은 한국 정부가 대북제재 완화에 진력하고 있다는 잘못된 신호를 국제사회에 보낸 것이나 다름없다. 북핵 문제 당사자인 한국이 대북제재의 정신을 훼손하는 분위기를 자꾸만 조성한다는 점은 심각히 생각해 볼 문제다. 대북제재는 북한 비핵화를 위해 가장 늦게까지 가져가야 할 수단이다. 우리가 '성의'를 보여주면 북한이 비핵화에 더 적극적으로 나설 것이란 건 비현실적 희망이다. 핵을 버리지 않고도 버틸 힘만 보태줄 뿐이다.
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