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Response to `Tension Risk`

Posted May. 27, 2010 13:03,   


Since the government released the results of the investigation into North Korea’s attack on the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan, the North has strengthened its threats and sensitively responded to the South’s sanctions. The aftermath of the sinking along with the fiscal crisis in southern Europe, has rattled the South Korean financial market. North Korea, which has been forced into a corner, will probably use threats and provocations to rock South Korea. South Koreans must survive this “tension risk” and not surrender to the North’s threats.

Pyongyang blackmailed Seoul Wednesday by saying, “South Korean personnel and vehicles will be prohibited from crossing the border if Seoul resumes propaganda broadcasts.” The North did not specifically mention the Kaesong industrial complex, but could be considering closing the business park. Seoul must prepare for the worst-case scenario by considering an economic loss as a national security cost and pull South Korean staff out of the complex. Pyongyang has halted the Mount Kumgang tours, from which it has earned 30 million U.S. dollars. Given the North’s dire economic condition, it will face mounting difficulty if it shuts down the Kaesong complex, which has earned 38 million dollars for the communist country. The shutdown of the complex will also cost the South Korean government more than 300 billion won (239 million dollars) due to compensation for companies operating there. Yet this is far better than thoughtlessly attempting to satisfy the North’s demands.

Pyongyang has threatened to destroy every loudspeaker installed by Seoul. In response, South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said, “If North Korea starts shooting, we’ll respond to the attack according to the rules of engagement.” Exercising the right to self-defense is nothing surprising.

After plummeting Tuesday, South Korean stocks rebounded Wednesday. The financial market, which has been reeling from negative news, has also stabilized. Unstable developments could intermittently appear in the financial market for a while, however. Seoul must make all-out efforts to ease investor jitters and the South Korean people and corporations should stay calm. South Koreans must remember that they have surprised the world by overcoming the risks posed by North Korea and achieving stellar economic growth for 65 years after national division.

The 1938 Munich agreement is considered a failed act of appeasement toward Nazi Germany. Though British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier attempted to appease Adolf Hitler by signing the agreement, they invited a far worse tragedy. The failure of the U.K. and France is a lesson for South Korea. To use the Cheonan sinking as a precious opportunity to bring fundamental changes to inter-Korean relations, South Koreans should tolerate tension and pain while uniting.