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[Editorial] Minister Chung Dong-young`s Visit to Pyongyang Should Not Be a Priority

[Editorial] Minister Chung Dong-young`s Visit to Pyongyang Should Not Be a Priority

Posted May. 18, 2005 23:23,   


The inter-Korea deputy minister-level conference, held since May 16 in Gaesong, will likely end as a meeting to "provide fertilizers." Considering that North Korea thoroughly ignored the issues of nuclear weapons and the resumption of the six-party talks during the three-day meeting, there appears to be no possibility that these issues will be discussed in the joint press release to be announced today. Specifying this conference, which was held for the first time in 10 months, as "working-level talks" from the beginning, Pyongyang made clear that its priority was to win fertilizers.

The South, of course, won some "presents": the North agreed principally to open inter-Korea minister-level conference in June and invited representatives to the grand unification festivity that will be held in Pyongyang in commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the 6/15 Joint Declaration. Considering that the inter-Korea relationship has been deadlocked for some time, we cannot underestimate the significance of the resumption of minister-level talks.

What matters is the priority. It was reported that the South, from the outset of the talks, set its "realistic goals" as finalizing the date for an inter-Korea ministerial conference and dispatching representatives headed by Unification Minister Chung Dong-young to Pyongyang, and concentrated its negotiation capabilities on achieving these objectives. The government`s original pledge to find a clue for "resolving the North Korea nuclear crisis and leading North Korea back to the six-party talks to realize the objective" became empty. If the main objective of this conference was to dispatch Minister Chung, who is believed to be the ruling party`s strong presidential candidate, to Pyongyang, they put the cart before the horse.

Up to now, the inter-Korea relationship has been lurching to events rather than making substantial progress. For example, politicians of both the ruling and opposition parties are overly competitive in seeking seats in the 6/15 grand unification festivity. North Korea is seeing right through such political agenda in South Korea. It is an established theory that North Korea leaked words to visiting South Korean personnel last November that "Minister Chung might end as a unification minister who never stepped on North Korean soil" largely because it read Minister Chung`s hasty temper and wanted to "tame" him.

All the more so, it is a lesson of the past that the government should approach North Korea under the principle of "say what needs to be said and take what needs to be received" in order to find our proper share. The government should avoid an event approach led by political motives since it would only be used by the North.