Dialogue with Seoul Is Pyongyang's Only Way out of Isolation

      December 26, 2014 13:40

      North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent a letter to President Kim Dae-jung's widow vowing to make efforts to achieve the reunification of the Korean Peninsula. He also wrote to Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jung-eun. The letters were delivered by an official from the nonprofit Kim Dae-jung Peace Center who made a one-day visit to the North Korean border city of Kaesong and met Kim Yang-gon, the head of the North's United Front Department.

      In the letter, the Kim Jong-un thanks the two women for sending wreaths to mark the third anniversary of the death of former leader Kim Jong-il and pledged to "continue to strive actively to achieve the long-cherished dream of the reunification."

      Kim Yang-gon also expressed his hopes of furthering cross-border rapprochement and told Hyun he wants the package tours to the North's scenic Mt. Kumgang resort to resume next year. The tours were halted in 2008 after a South Korean tourists was shot and killed by a North Korean soldier.

      This is the first time that Kim Jong-un has sent a personal letter to a prominent South Korean figure. But the problem is that these comments were made to civilians rather than the government.

      As Kim Yang-gon mentioned, North Korea hopes for the resumption of the package tours and the removal of sanctions imposed following the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan in 2010. The North probably knows that these issues can only be resolved via official channels.

      Three months ago, Kim Jong-un sent three special envoys to South Korea to attend the Asian Games in Incheon and had them agree to high-level talks in late October or early November. At the time, the North did not set any preconditions. The resumption of rapprochement efforts, such as the resumption of stalled reunion of families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War was set to be on the agenda.

      But the North suddenly took issue with the floating of propaganda leaflets across the border and unilaterally scrapped the talks. Now it wants to resume them, but it is only telling civilians.

      Kim Jong-un is likely to try harder to make his own mark on North Korea next year now that his father has been dead three years. But the international community continues to intensify pressure on the North citing not only its nuclear weapons program but its lousy human rights record as well, further isolating Pyongyang.

      North Korean diplomats have attempted to sway international opinion by meeting with UN officials as well as Russian and U.S. diplomats, but to no avail. North Korea should know by now that the key to ending its isolation is to hold talks with the South Korean government. It cannot afford to waste more time.

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