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Unification Ministry Remarks Cause Stir

Posted November. 12, 2005 08:44,   


Remarks and behavior by officials from South Korea’s Unification Ministry during the 12th Reunion for Inter-Korean Separated Families from November 8 to 10 at Mt. Geumgang, have caused a stir. For example, they urged South Korean journalists to make an unfair apology to the North.

According to the joint press corps of the Reunion for Inter-Korean Separated Families, North Korea deterred South Korean journalists from broadcasting and covering the event by calling into question the expression of “North Korea’s abduction” in the family reunion report of one of the Dongjinho’s crew, which was kidnapped by North Korea in 1987.

The director general of the Unification Ministry, who only identified his family name of Hong, said to South Korean journalists regarding the issue on November 8, “It would be better for South Korean journalists to apologize.”

An official of the joint press corps said, “Officer Hong virtually suggested we make an apology to the North when he said the South should make a concession to resolve the issue in a smooth way because we used the expression, ‘North Korea’s abduction,’ which provoked the North.”

Officer Hong also told some of the officials of the joint press corps on the morning of November 9, “The North maintains a position that there is no reason to proceed with the event when we (South Korea) behave like this. It is the journalists who will suffer damage if we are not allowed to cover the event.”

In response, some journalists pointed out, “It is unnecessary to apologize because the expression of ‘North Korea’s abduction’ in the report is in accordance with a consistent and official position of our government. Government officials provided opportunity for the North by spending time calling the superior authorities to confirm whether to use the phrase, ‘North Korea’s abduction,’ which is South Korean government’s official language.”

Journalists also raised a question, “At a time when the reunion of the crew’s family that was kidnapped to the North was prearranged, the government failed to express its justifiable position in a timely manner, let alone raise an objection to the North’s unfair requests.”

Moreover, Officer Hong came under fire when he said to the joint press corps before heading to the North, “The scenes of crying and weeping are boring, so try to find cheerful and admirable stories. I’ll evaluate the reports and refer good ones to the institutions that are related to the press.”

Jae-Young Kim jaykim@donga.com