The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is considering providing assistance for North Korea by means of official development assistance (ODA). It appears the South Korean government is engrossed in sending aid to North Korea even after the collapse of the Hanoi summit. During the joint press conference with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad last Wednesday, South Koran President Moon Jae-in said he would help North Korea build relations with member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), causing complaints by Washington that it cannot trust the South Korean government.
Following the breakdown of the Hanoi summit, the U.S. government has raised its guard against possible provocations by North Korea and toughened sanctions. The Trump administration is strengthening international cooperation in order to ensure that all sanctions against North Korea are implemented fully and effectively. Separately, the U.S. Congress requested a ban against two Chinese banks for helping North Korea launder money. Major European countries, including the U.K. and Germany, are calling for strict implementation of North Korean sanctions for complete denuclearization of North Korea.
On the contrary, the Moon administration has maintained its stance on strengthening economic ties with North Korea by laying out a vision for “new Korean Peninsula regime,” while revealing that it would find ways to resume economic cooperation projects with North Korea, such as Mount Kumgang Tourism and the Kaesong Industrial Complex. But providing economic support to North Korea by means of ODA runs counter to the Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Act, which says transactions between the two Koreas are considered internal transactions, not transactions between nations. The Moon administration said that what it is reviewing is within the framework of sanctions or for after sanctions relief. But at a time when international cooperation is critical, the South Korean government would hardly gain the confidence of the international community if it keeps acting like it is not on the same page with them.
Diplomatic power of a country comes from its ability to fine tune its policy direction and opinion in the rapidly changing international situation. South Korea’s foreign policies, which were established under the premise of a successful agreement between the U.S. and North Korea in Hanoi, should be readjusted based on the changed international situation. But South Korea’s diplomatic policies have not changed a bit even after the collapse of the Hanoi summit. It seems not only insensitive but also stubborn. The Moon administration should be aware that it cannot help but make a mockery of itself with such diplomatic approaches.