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[Editorial] Roh Making Concessions to N. Korea?

Posted September. 29, 2007 03:43,   


People are worried about the Roh administration’s preparations for the 2007 inter-Korean summit slated for October 2-4. Both the list of gifts for Pyongyang and list of concessions Seoul will give to Kim Jong Il appear to be getting longer. President Roh has decided to watch the Arirang mass gymnastics show, which is a North Korean propaganda festival in disguise, and Cheong Wa Dae once considered lifting the access ban imposed on domestic pro-North Korea web sites.

With less than three months of his term left, Roh risks undermining the fundamentals of the nation for one round of summit talks, even while it is not certain whether the summit will produce visible achievements.

A flurry of agenda items aimed at assisting the North makes the public feel dizzy. They are jointly developing the Shinuiju special economic zone, establishing a second Gaesong Industrial Complex, setting up an inter-Korean investment agency, and building an information technology complex near Pyongyang, to name a few. Though Cheong Wa Dae said that the government would not disclose agenda items of the upcoming inter-Korean summit talks in advance, news of these measures came from the mouths of government officials.

It looks like the government is tactfully dropping the news in order to boost the mood. Baek Jong-cheon, the president’s top security adviser, has made the proposition of establishing special zones a fait accompli by saying that, “The South could propose the establishment of economic zones similar to the Gaesong industrial park.”

Supporting North Korea costs an astronomical amount of national budget money. It’s not a matter that the president can decide without public consensus. The public will no longer allow the current administration that has already drained the national budget to waste tax money anymore. It is nothing short of issuing a promissory note worth trillions of won. To cozy up to Kim Jong Il, the government is poised to turn a blind eye to the people shouldering the burden those plans will result in.

President Roh’s decision to watch the Arirang performance can hardly be justified for any reason. The mass gymnastics show praises the Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il regime by mobilizing 60,000 North Korean residents to hold up cards and perform mass games. Even though Pyongyang has agreed to alter some parts due to criticism from South Koreans, the basic framework of the performance will not change.

North Korea’s daily newspaper Rodong Sinmun recently emphasized that the Arirang festival contains the commitment of Kim Jong Il to unification. The “commitment to unification” is, however, a “commitment to unification under communism.” That is the reason why the participation of South Korea’s president cannot be considered as just going out to see a show. It’s highly likely that pictures of President Roh applauding will be used as a propaganda tool.

The Arirang performance has long been criticized for abusing children and violating human rights. It’s customary for the international community not to purchase a football if it is made by exploiting child labor. It’s needless to say that we should not tolerate a propaganda display where small children are forced to perform for so long time that they urinate while standing. If the government is not able to take issue with the North’s human rights abuses, it should at least not abet and assist the violations.

Examining the possibility of lifting the access ban on pro-Pyongyang Internet sites ahead of the inter-Korean summit is nothing less than volunteering to provide services for Kim Jong Il. Access to the relevant 42 websites, including the “Anti-imperialism National Democratic Front” site aimed at propagating North Korean policies, was restricted by the government because they spread North Korea’s “Juche” ideology and military-first policy. Despite an order from the Ministry of Information and Communication to purge all postings that praise North Korea, Cheong Wa Dae considered lifting the access ban, ignoring opposition from the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office, the National Intelligence Service, and the National Police Agency. It is clear that “pro-North forces” exist in the administration`s inner circle.

The government’s plan to discuss the issue of the NLL (Northern Limit Line) along with that of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) is not acceptable either. Public consensus precedes the discussion of redrawing the NLL, the practical sea border. Taking a wrong step could give North Korea a handle to use against South Korea. It’s understandable for residents in Ongjin-gun, Incheon to convey their opposition to the reorganization of the NLL to the government, saying that, “The NLL is our line of survival and should be protected by any means necessary.” Both President Roh and Cheong Wa Dae should take a step back and think more prudently.

Efforts to ease tension between the two Koreas and reunify the nation are needed, but one round of summit talks cannot bring about peace and unification overnight. The summit with North Korea is no different from those of other nations. As president of the world’s 13th largest economy, President Roh should stand firm. He must be aware that if he presents with an attitude implying that he would abandon national identity and dignity in favor of the success of the summit, he will be swayed by Kim Jong Il and gain no visible achievement.