Change North Korea policyNorth Korea has publicly disgraced the Blue House once again. Last weekend, Kim Kye-kwan, a high-ranking North Korean diplomat, issued a terse statement ridiculing Chung Eui-yong, director of the National Security Office in the Blue House, for his “presumptuous and stupid act to deliver a birthday greeting from U.S. President Donald Trump” on his behalf. Kim hurled unbearable insults to Chung — and by extension to President Moon Jae-in and the South Korean people. Nevertheless, the Blue House has kept mum. How long will the government show generosity toward the recalcitrant state across the border?
Pyongyang’s derogatory statements against the Blue House are nothing new. Last year, it denounced President Moon’s speech on the creation of an inter-Korean “peace economy” on Aug. 15, Liberation Day, for “barking like a scared dog.” Two months earlier, North Korea humiliated Moon by exposing the fact that he had sent North Korean leader Kim Jong-un an invitation to the South Korea-Asean Summit in Busan, but Kim failed to show up. North Korea’s repetition of these mean acts mostly resulted from the Blue House’s silence about them.
More troublesome than Kim Kye-kwan’s rude talk is his rude message — he raised a fundamental question about the role of the Moon administration as a mediator between North Korea and the United States. If what North Korea said is true — that there is an exclusive communication channel between Pyongyang and Washington — Seoul has long been ignored by Pyongyang and Washington during their talks. National Security Office head Chung must tell the truth behind what’s going on.
Kim’s statement constitutes a straightforward rejection of the South Korean government’s role as mediator. He warned Seoul “not to have a futile dream to step in the amicable relationship” between the leaders of North Korea and the United States. Kim also said that North Korea will not “waste time being cheated by Washington,” vowing to take “our own way” in the future. His remarks translate into a threat to return to the “completion of nuclear armaments,” as determined in the plenary session of the Workers’ Party at the end of last year. The Moon administration must not confuse Kim Jong-un now with him in early 2018 when he suddenly launched peace offensives.
The Blue House must change its diplomatic and security strategies now focused on accelerating dialogue with North Korea. It must review its cherished role as a “facilitator” and “mediator” as soon as possible. It must not stick with its past strategy when its counterpart changes its course of action. The government must restore its relations with the United States and Japan, which were strained as a result of being engrossed in improving inter-Korean ties.
Moon holds his New Year’s press conference on Tuesday. He must present new visions on his diplomatic and security strategies to help achieve denuclearization of the North. If he only adheres to his hopes for a peace economy and Kim’s return trip to Seoul, he cannot weather this crisis.