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North Korea Unleashes Criticism at Pres. Lee

Posted April. 02, 2008 06:23,   


North Korea Tuesday criticized South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, mentioning his name directly for the first time since his inauguration in late February.

The (North) Korea Central News Agency and the daily Rodong Sinmun said “Lee’s seizure of power” has created “a thorn bush” in inter-Korean relations, and that his policy toward Pyongyang will inevitably affect the entire Korean Peninsula and surrounding countries.

In an editorial, the daily said Seoul’s attempts to invalidate inter-Korean agreements and its reliance on foreign powers will force Pyongyang to rethink the future path it should take.

Since Lee’s inauguration, the daily had never referred to the president by name, instead referring to him by names such as “charlatan” and “traitor.”

The Rodong Sinmun also blasted President Lee’s three major policies toward North Korea, saying, “The Lee government will be held fully accountable for the irrevocable catastrophic consequences.”

The newspaper also criticized Lee’s opposition to North Korea’s nuclear development and his pledge to help the North increase per capita income to 3,000 U.S. dollars.

It said his insistence on Pyongyang’s scrapping of its nuclear program as a precondition for smooth inter-Korean cooperation is “absurd babbling, an act of selling national interests to a foreign county, and a statement that will hamper Korean reunification by fueling a confrontation between the two Koreas and eventually triggering war on the peninsula.”

The daily also urged South Korea’s new conservative government to honor the “sunshine policy” of engagement of Lee’s two liberal predecessors Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun. It said the policy consistently pursued autonomous reunification and peaceful prosperity according to the principles of agreements reached in the 2000 and last year’s inter-Korean summits.

In Seoul, a senior presidential official said on the condition of anonymity, “It’s inappropriate to mention the name of our president.”

Experts say the North’s comments are intended to boost internal cohesion and morale in the face of major domestic and international events. The North Korean parliament will hold a meeting next week, and President Lee will visit Washington this month. By taking a hawkish line, the experts say, Pyongyang is trying to deflect blame for failing to keep promises on its nuclear dismantlement.

kyle@donga.com swpark@donga.com