On July 11, 2008, a North Korean soldier shot to death South Korean tourist Park Wang-ja at the Mount Kumgang resort. The killing led to a rapid freeze in inter-Korean relations in the wake of the inauguration of the Lee Myung-bak administration in February that year. As a natural response, Seoul urged Pyongyang to get to the bottom of the incident, hold the culprits accountable, and prevent a recurrence. The North did not respond to these demands, however, so it is entirely responsible for the ensuing suspension of the Mount Kumgang tour. Though Pyongyang made a mistake, it went on to suspend tours to Kaesong in December 2008. Every dollar counts for the communist country but it chose to lose 30 million dollars in yearly income by making a reckless move. Despite this, Pyongyang claimed that the Lee administration`s hostile policy toward it resulted in the tour`s suspension.
Over the past two years, the North has launched military provocations and threats against the South under false claims to turn the situation around. In a statement issued by the North Korean People`s Army`s operations department in January last year, Pyongyang said it will recognize its own sea military border instead of the Northern Limit Line, the de facto inter-Korean sea border. The same month, North Korea`s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland declared a unilateral cancellation of the 1991 inter-Korean non-aggression treaty signed under the South`s Roh Tae-woo administration. The communist country launched its long-range Taepodong-2 missile in April last year and conducted its second nuclear test a month later. When the South announced its participation in the Proliferation Security Initiative as a countermeasure, Pyongyang said, "We will be no longer bound to the armistice and the Korean Peninsula will be at war."
In October last year, North Korean vessels resumed intrusions into South Korean waters, and Pyongyang threatened that a third inter-Korean naval skirmish could break out in the Yellow Sea. The North put its threat into practice near Daecheong Island the following month. It designated waters near the sea border as a peacetime firing zone in December last year and fired artillery shells into the area in January this year. The North`s provocations culminated with the attack on the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan March 26. The incident invited U.N. sanctions, and the North tried to endure the sanctions for more than five months by relying on China. When things did not turn out as it wished, Pyongyang suggested resuming reunions of separated families in both Koreas. This is the North`s multifaceted measure to improve relations with the U.S., earn dollars, and secure food.
After persuading the South back to the negotiating table, the North made another ludicrous demand by asking that the Mount Kumgang tour be resumed first. Pyongyang seeks to avoid responsibility for the killing of the South Korean tourist and the Cheonan sinking. This is a truly crafty tactic. The reunion of separated families, however, is a humanitarian matter whose nature is completely different from that of the two incidents. North Korea must be held accountable for its military provocations.
Editorial Writer Lee Jeong-hoon (firstname.lastname@example.org)