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Chung, the Onion?

Posted June. 21, 2005 07:43,   


“Why now?”

That is a question coming to mind after Minister of Unification Chung Dong-young belatedly announced on Monday North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s remark that North Korea could abandon its long-distance missiles if the North and the United States establish diplomatic ties.

Chung announced Kim’s remark as many as three days after it was made. Chung’s belatedness seems odd, given the sensitive nature of Kim’s intention to give up missiles, though only after establishing diplomatic ties with the U.S.

In addition, other remarks by Kim announced on the same day also carry significance. For instance, Kim is said to have suggested to “review from scratch the issue of reconnecting the road along the east coast,” and asked for “deregulation on the Geumgang Mountain tour process.” Politicians even liken Chung to an onion, saying that learning new information from him is like peeling an onion.

Chung is said to have explained, “I had so many important remarks to deal with that I needed time to sort things out. That is why those particular remarks were announced a bit late.”

Spokesperson of the Uri Party Chung Byung-hyun said, “I was told that the ‘missile abolishment’ and other issues announced belatedly were discussed during the luncheon, not in the one-on-one meeting with Kim, and that was why they were not announced during the June 17 briefing.”

However, many believe that Chung has a few more surprises. For example, during a meeting with Uri Party members, Chung said, “Kim mentioned about Grand National Party (GNP) leader Park Geun-hye and conveyed his personal greetings to her.” In a phone conversation with Park earlier this day, Chung said, “Kim did not mention a thing about former President Park Chung-hee’s authoritarian rule, but only gave compliments,” having people wonder what that was all about.

The GNP seems somewhat annoyed at Chung’s attitude. Park emphasized in a party leaders’ meeting on Monday, “The most important element in the issues about North Korea is transparency. There should never be any agreement that the public is unaware of.”

Park refused to meet with Chung at first, saying, “An opposition leader does not need to listen to what the public does not yet know,” but in the end agreed to have a conversation with Chung via phone.

Some sense a political motivation of Chung in continuing the “meeting with Kim Jong Il effect” as a presidential candidate of the ruling party.

Seung-Heon Lee ddr@donga.com