North Korea is the enemy again

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North Korea is the enemy again

The conservative Yoon suk-yeol administration plans to describe North Korea as the “enemy” again in a National Defense White Paper to be published in January. Over the past five years under Moon Jae-in’s presidency, the liberal administration steadfastly adhered to peace and dialogue with North Korea even when it was busy advancing its level of nuclear weapons and missiles. We welcome the Yoon administration’s course change.

A government official said that the stipulation of North Korea as our enemy had been made in a draft of the white paper. In May, President-elect Yoon’s transition committee included the characterization of North Korea as an enemy in the 110 national agendas of the new government.

The biannual white paper has often been a subject of political disputes. Despite the need to clearly define who is our enemy, the concept wildly fluctuated according to the ideology of a government. Since the first branding of North Korea as our main enemy in a 1995 defense paper after a North Korean representative threatened to turn Seoul into “a sea of fire,” that definition was used until 2000. But after the Kim Dae-jung administration’s rapprochement with the North, the Roh Moo-hyun administration, also a liberal government, replaced the term “enemy” with “a direct military threat” in 2004. After the Cheonan sinking and Yeonpyeong shelling by the North in 2010, the hard-line Lee Myung-bak administration reused the phrase “our enemy” in its white paper. That definition stayed until 2016 under the conservative Park Geun-hye administration.

But the Moon Jae-in administration deleted the term “enemy” from its defense white paper in 2018 and 2020. Instead, it inserted a new sentiment: “The government regards any forces threatening our sovereignty, territory, people and properties as our enemy.” That drew criticism for ambiguity. After finishing its sixth nuclear test and ICBM launch, North Korea came up with peace offensives before the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games. Blinded by its faith in the North, the Moon administration put all its bets on inter-Korean and U.S.-North summits.

In the meantime, our sense of national security weakened. The Moon administration’s infatuation with the North’s fake show of peace led to repeated suspensions of South Korea-U.S. joint drills, damaging our military capability to respond to provocations. The Korea Military Academy even removed the subject of the Korean War history from its curriculum.

The progressive Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) went so far as to demand the withdrawal of the U.S. Forces Korea. The Yoon administration must normalize this definition of our enemy to bring people down to earth.
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