Has Seoul's N.Korea Policy Failed?

      November 07, 2019 13:04

      Inter-Korean relations have frozen despite the South Korean government's best efforts to engage its crackpot neighbor even at the cost of alienating the U.S.

      Since a North Korea-U.S. summit collapsed in Hanoi in February, the North has openly threatened or hurled abuse at the South while launching a string of missile provocations.

      The mood now is a million miles from the show of harmony that followed North Korea's participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February last year. Since the Hanoi summit, North Korea has maintained effective radio silence vis-à-vis the South.

      Leader Kim Jong-un, who had expected the U.S. to lift sanctions, seems to think that he was fooled by President Moon Jae-in, who had eagerly promoted the summit, and given up hope that Seoul can be of any use to him.

      The North even rejected humanitarian aid, including an offer of Tamiflu supplies in January, 50,000 tons of rice in May, and quarantine help against the spread of African swine fever the same month. Last month, a World Cup qualifier between the two Koreas in Pyongyang was played in an empty stadium without TV transmission, and immigration officers subjected the South Korean players to a humiliating three-hour ordeal on arrival.

      Soon afterward Kim ordered the destruction of "all the unsightly facilities" built in the North's Mt. Kumgang resort with South Korean money in the early millennium. Pyongyang also made it clear that its short-range missile launches were a "warning" to the South.

      Prof. Nam Joo-hong of Kyonggi University said, "The North has closed all doors to even minor proposals for cooperation because they believe that the South has failed to play its role in helping lift the international sanctions."

      And Kim Seung, a former Unification Ministry official, called on the government to "wake up" from the delusion that the North will denuclearize and peace achieved if the leaders of the two Koreas and the U.S. meet.

      But some pundits think it is too early to conclude that the Moon administration's North Korea policy has failed. "It was unfortunate that Seoul failed to find a breakthrough in North Korea-U.S. relations," Prof. Kim Ki-jung of Yonsei University said. "But South Korea no doubt played an important role in kick-starting the denuclearization process."

      Prof. Koh Yu-hwan of Dongguk University said, "It remains to be seen whether the Moon administration's North Korea policy will be finally pay off depending on how it manages the situation until early next year."

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