What did the government do?A month has passed since a South Korean fisheries official was killed and burned by North Korean soldiers. North Korea has yet to respond to the South’s call for a joint investigation or promise the mishap will never be repeated. It has been entirely disregarded in South Korea. Seoul authorities have not made any progress except for the early-stage findings.
Seoul has been wrong in its response throughout the process. Pyongyang tried to close the case through an apology from its leader. Its design was clear from the lies it stated in the report sent to Seoul after the shooting and burning. It clearly did not have any intention to comply with a joint probe from the start. The government gloated that the North’s leader mentioned “sorry” twice in a letter. It was euphoric as if a joint probe could pave the way for inter-Korean dialogue. A senior member of the ruling party even called the body’s burning a cremation. But what has it gained?
The presidential office and government response had been disappointing. The government does not seem to be aware of the gravity of the case nor have any intention to strongly address it. It is normal to take a strong step if the accused party does not take suitable compensation or remedial action. But the government has not even pressed on with a joint probe.
It also has been passive in seeking international cooperation. Tomás Ojea Quintana, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea, is expected to address the issue at the UN Assembly. The international society takes the matter gravely. But Seoul has stayed on the sidelines. South Korea was invited to a special North Korean resolution review by the United States, Japan, Britain and Australia, but it did not attend. South Korea will most likely bow out of signing the resolution on North Korean human rights issues. Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha only took time to meet with the family members of the killed fisheries official this week.
President Moon Jae-in had sent a letter to the son of the deceased, saying his heart was broken, and asked him to wait for the results of the investigation. But how long should they wait? The government must not forget that its utmost duty is to protect the lives of the people.