March 28, 2013 12:33
Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae told President Park Geun-hye on Wednesday that his ministry wants to renew talks and exchanges with North Korea and bring foreign investment to the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex.
It is well known that the Park administration has placed a high priority on resuming dialogue with North Korea, and the Unification Ministry is well within its rights to work to increase exchanges and dialogue. But the ministry sorely lacks common sense.
North Korea on Wednesday severed a military hotline with South Korea that was the last channel of communication that remained open. The hotline was used to notify the North of any planned movement of people and vehicles to the Kaesong complex, which sits just north of the Demilitarized Zone, and was set up in 2006 to prevent accidental clashes.
So what on Earth possessed the Unification Ministry to push plans to open the Kaesong complex to global investment on the same day that the North cut off communication about the industrial park?
Meanwhile North Korea's belligerent rhetoric continued apace, with the Rodong Sinmun daily reporting that the regime ordered its missile and long-range artillery batteries into "top combat-ready posture." That means Pyongyang is threatening to attack South Korea and the U.S. using nuclear weapons.
The UN Security Council adopted two resolutions so far this year authorizing strong sanctions against North Korea. The U.S. government, meanwhile, is busy coming up with even tougher financial sanctions against the North than those being implemented by the UN. Even China has vowed to diligently obey the UN-led sanctions. How will these countries view Seoul's decision to bolster inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation at this point in time? How can the South Korean government escape blame for encouraging North Korea to become a nuclear power?
The Unification Ministry told Park it would "transparently pursue humanitarian support," including help for North Korean children through international agencies. It was wise not to attach conditions to such aid. But attempting to use humanitarian aid to North Korea as a means to jump-start dialogue could hurt the very principle. The international community, too, separates humanitarian aid from sanctions against the North. The fundamental objective of North Korea policy is to save the people of the North from starvation and improve their human rights under terrible oppression. The government must not lose sight of these two basic goals.
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