Kowtowing to Kim Yo-jongAfter 74 lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and other splinter parties demanded Thursday that a joint South Korea-U.S. military exercise slated for later this month be suspended, major presidential candidates from the DP joined the move. They were all reacting to Kim Yo-jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister and vice director of the Workers’ Party, who threatened to “watch closely what action South Korea will take” because the “drill will make the future of inter-Korean relations murky.” We wonder if the DP lawmakers really want to accept so easily Pyongyang’s demand for the cancellation of a military exercise pivotal to our national security.
Meanwhile, DP Chairman Song Young-gil stressed the need to conduct a “drill agreed to between South and North Korea.” The recent restoration of inter-Korean military communication lines can hardly justify the postponement of the drill, he said. Such discord in the ruling camp suggests internal schisms. Kim Yo-jong would be the first to welcome such strange development across the border as she has already succeeded in fueling internal conflict in the South and shaking the alliance.
The government went a step further. The Ministry of Unification floated the idea of delaying the drill, saying, “It is desirable to suspend the exercise.” Two days later, Park Jie-won, director of the National Intelligence Service, accepted the baton. “If we conduct a joint drill, North Korea will make a new provocation,” he warned. Such remarks by the head of the nation’s spy agency translate into an accommodation of the North’s demand based on a preset conclusion.
In such circumstances, a leader must start to lead. In a meeting with the top brass on Wednesday, however, President Moon Jae-in ordered them to “cautiously consult with the United States over the issue after considering several factors.” It is irresponsible for the commander in chief to show such an ambiguous attitude on an issue of national security.
A military exercise cannot serve as a bargaining chip for inter-Korean talks. Discussing a suspension or scaling back of the drill is the same as admitting that the exercise is actually aimed at invading North Korea. Our top spy relayed Pyongyang’s willingness to take “reciprocal steps” in return for the suspension of the drill. In other words, Pyongyang seeks economic and medical aid from Seoul in exchange for the suspension by simply agreeing to resume talks. How could that be reciprocal steps? Park underscored the need to “flexibly review the North’s demand to achieve denuclearization.” His logic does not make sense. North Korea must first take sincere steps to denuclearize first. Period.