April 22, 2009 13:08
North and South Korean officials met for just 22 minutes in the border city of Kaesong on Tuesday, with each side merely informing the other of its position. It was to be expected that the talks would not produce any results. The South Korean delegates arrived in Kaesong at around 9 a.m. and offered to hold a preparatory meeting to discuss the agenda, participants and venue of the talks. Until they arrived, the North Koreans had declined to inform the South of who was taking part and where the meeting was to take place. Then they told the South Korean officials to come over to the North's office in the Kaesong Industrial Complex.
In the half century history of inter-Korean talks, neither South or North Korea has been this rude.
Officials from the two sides held seven separate preparatory meetings on Tuesday and then barely managed to hold the main meeting, and that lasted only 22 minutes. It is not difficult to guess why North Korea acted this way. Its aim was to make South Korea feel small by forcing officials to travel to the North, bombard them with scathing criticism over the implementation of UN sanctions and Seoul's participation in the Proliferation Security Initiative, and threatening the possible closure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex. The North Koreans intended to humiliate South Korea while the entire world was watching. By agreeing to it, the South colluded in its own humiliation.
The South Korean officials asked to meet the Hyundai Asan employee who has been detained incommunicado by North Korean authorities for 23 days now, but North Korea refused. Pyongyang has demonstrated that it is incapable of abiding by even the most basic humanitarian principles.
Still, the problem for the South is that it has no choice but to deal with such a country. Our government must stick to its principles and pursue genuine dialogue with North Korea instead of getting caught up in the results of individual instances. The South Korean government must clear up the confusion over whether or not it is going to join the PSI and get to work focusing on its overall North Korea policy.
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