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N. Korea’s Border Antics Render Seoul Helpless

Posted March. 18, 2009 03:39,   


The South Korean government is finding itself at wit’s end in the face of North Korea’s repeated blocking and reopening of its border.

Seoul belatedly urged yesterday South Korean businessmen not to visit the North but has come up with no fundamental solutions.

▽ Beleaguered S. Korean government

Since banning entry by all South Koreans into the inter-Korean industrial complex in Kaesong and Mount Geumgang March 9, the North has taken provocative measures against South Korea.

The following day, it fully reopened its border for three days but again sealed the border Friday, March 13. Over the weekend, it returned six South Korean workers as if releasing hostages.

On Monday, the North allowed South Koreans to return home but did not allow them to enter its territory.

Pyongyang again opened its border yesterday, but how long it will remain open is in doubt. The North’s constantly changing policy has led officials in the South to joke, “Pyongyang has only one remaining option of allowing entrance into the North and banning a return to the South.”

Faced with Pyongyang’s wayward measures, Seoul has failed to present effective countermeasures.

Two countermeasures were proposed Monday: a prolonged shutdown of border crossings and full opening of the border.

Officials of the South Korean Unification Ministry heaved a sigh of relief Monday afternoon after hearing that the North reopened the border. Knowing the move was a half an opening, they went back and forth all day without formulating clear countermeasures.

The ministry was also in confusion Friday. It initially planned to issue a statement to express deep regret over the North’s move but backed down and just criticized the North for breaching an inter-Korean agreement.

The ministry reportedly believed that a strong statement would provoke North Korea and threaten the safety of South Korean workers in the complex.

▽ Belated entry ban

The ministry urged yesterday entrepreneurs doing business in the complex to refrain from entering the North.

On when the government’s request not to visit the North will expire, ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyoun said, “Until the guarantee of crossing is effectively secured.”

Amid aggravating public opinion in South Korea and growing calls from conservatives to shut down the industrial complex, Seoul took the measure despite criticism that it was a passive action.