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[Editorial] It Was Inappropriate For President to Express Regret

[Editorial] It Was Inappropriate For President to Express Regret

Posted August. 19, 2003 21:47,   


After many complications, North Korea finally announced that it would send its athletes and cheering squad to the World University Games in Daegu. However, we cannot but raise a question into the South Korean government’s response to the North’s previous hint on nonattendance. After all, President Roh Moo-hyun expressed regret over the burning of North Korean flags and portraits of Kim Jong-il, its leader, and the North accepted the apology.

For Daegu citizens who worked hard in preparation for the Games, it might be fortunate for the North to attend. However, there are some problems in the process. Most of all, it was not appropriate for the president himself to express regret. It is not because South Korea does not recognize the North Korean regime in the Constitution or it is still the South`s archrival. It is because the North`s ulterior motive was so obvious. The North is certain to know that the South is a democracy based on diversity. Though the North lashed out at conservative South Korean groups, they were also among those who welcomed North Korean athletes during the Busan Asian Games last year.

However, North Korea threatened not to participate in the Games, asking the South Korean government for an apology, which shows its intention to sway South Korean society by instigating a discord between conservatives and liberals. Should the president have made an apology, though he well understood the North’s intention? We think that the president did not have to come forward, in that Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun had, in effect, expressed regret first.

In addition, the president ordered the minister to express regret over the defacing of North Korean flags, as the government does whenever the defacing of American flags occurred. It was imprudent of him to compare North Korean flags to U.S. flags. Our life and property is protected by deterrence against North Korea, based on the Korea-U.S. alliance. How important reconciliation and cooperation with North Korea is, it is not appropriate to deal with both the burning of North Korean flags and that of U.S. flags on the same lines.

What matters is consistency in the government’s North Korea policy. If the South sets a precedent to indulge the North whenever it finds fault with the South, it is difficult to expect sound inter-Korean relations. Many people have pointed out that the North’s threat not to participate in the Games was to train the Roh Moo-hyun government. After all, on the surface, the Roh government appears to have been tamed.