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NK Strategy Combining Offer for Talks With Media Criticism

NK Strategy Combining Offer for Talks With Media Criticism

Posted November. 23, 2009 09:11,   


North Korea is pursuing a dual-track strategy mixing offers for official talks with strong media criticism of South Korea.

Pyongyang has proposed government-level talks through a private channel to resume tours to the North’s scenic Mount Kumgang and its border city of Kaesong, while denouncing the South Korean government through its media outlets.

○ Inter-Korean talks via private channels

Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun visited Mount Kumgang Wednesday. There, Ri Jong Hyuk, vice chairman of the North’s Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, proposed to Hyun a meeting of government officials from the two Koreas to resume tours to Mount Kumgang and Kaesong.

Ri also mentioned the possibility of allowing a South Korean fact-finding team to visit the mountain, where a South Korean tourist was shot to death by a North Korean soldier July 11 last year. Pyongyang had repeatedly rejected Seoul’s demand for the on-site investigation.

On the other hand, the North has expressed strong dissatisfaction with the South through private channels. A North Korean official recently told a member of a South Korean civic group, “South Korea said it would send emergency relief goods for young children in our country. The goods we received were corn, however, and corn is too coarse for children. This is complete disregard for us and our children.”

The civic group member told reporters, “The North Korean official told me that the North couldn’t receive the 10,000 tons of corn because the South hurt its pride.”

○ Denouncing the South through media

Since Nov. 10, the North`s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland and the daily Rodong Shinmun, the mouthpiece of the North Korean Workers’ Party, have also denounced the offer of 10,000 tons of corn from South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

The daily said Saturday, “South Korea’s anti-unification forces are taking anachronistic steps to block inter-Korean relations from improving. Confrontational acts against us led by South Korean Unification Minister Hyun In-taek are enraging all Koreans.”

The North’s hostile gestures apparently have something to do with a series of actions by the South and inter-Korean developments: Seoul’s ban on tours to Mount Kumgang and Kaesong and visits to the North by certain South Korean civic groups; an inter-Korean naval clash off the west coast; a joint military exercise between Seoul and Washington; and the South Korean military’s drafting of a plan in case of emergency in North Korea.

Pyongyang also seems offended by Seoul’s offer of 10,000 tons of corn and reallocation of a budget increase for reunification education instead of inter-Korean cooperation, according to experts.

○ South Korea in no hurry

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il held talks with Hyun at Mount Myohyang Aug. 16 and reached a five-point agreement to enhance inter-Korean exchanges, including the resumption of tours to Mount Kumgang and Kaesong.

Since Kim’s orders and decisions must be followed, North Korean officials might be pressed for time, experts said.

In contrast, Seoul officials are in no hurry. A South Korean official downplayed Ri’s proposal for bilateral talks, saying, “The proposal was made through a private channel, not a government one,” adding, “We will review the report from Hyundai.”

Many South Korean officials are pessimistic over resuming inter-Korean exchanges because of continuing international sanctions on North Korea and the North’s lack of willingness to abandon its nuclear program.

South Korea will announce its stance on North Korea after U.S. special envoy to North Korea Stephen Bosworth visits Pyongyang next month.