Go to contents

Pyongyang expected to display sincerity in dialogue

Posted October. 06, 2014 03:50,   


North Korea used the card of a surprise visit to South Korea by its top officials from the ruling party, military and government, including Hwang Pyong So, its No. 2 man and vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, for their attendance at the closing ceremony of the Incheon Asian Games. For South Korea, key officials in charge of national security and inter-Korean relations including Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, national security director Kim Kwan-jin, and Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae met with the three visitors from the North. It is good news that top officials from the two Koreas met each other, and agreed to have a second high-level contact between late October and early November.

Further continuation of standoff in inter-Korean relations since the sinking of South Korean naval corvette Cheonan by the North’s torpedo attack in March 2010 is not desirable for both peace in Northeast Asia and the two Koreas. Nonetheless, it is premature for the South to expect thawing inter-Korean ties due to the latest visit by the North Korean delegation.

The North Korean delegation visited the South at instruction of its leader Kim Jong Un, but avoided meeting with President Park Geun-hye. Ryoo told the visitors that the South Korean government is willing to set up their courtesy call to President Park, but the delegation from Pyongyang declined, saying, “Since we are here to attend the closing ceremony of the Asian Games, we will only focus on it.” The only message from Kim Jong Un that the North Korean delegation conveyed to the South was “We convey a warm greeting (to President Park).” Their denial to visit President Park is hardly understandable, even when comparing a situation in 2009 when Kim Ki Nam, secretary of the North Korean Workers’ Party, and Kim Yang Gon, head of the United Front Department who paid condolence call for the death of former President Kim Dae-jung, overstayed their original schedule by one day and met with then President Lee Myung-bak. It is more likely that the visitors were instructed by Kim Jong Un not to meet with President Park this time.

Hwang Pyong So, clad in military uniform and sunglasses, was escorted by bodyguards from the North’s Guards Command. This might contain a certain message from Kim Jong Un, but wearing military uniform is not compatible with diplomatic protocol. This attire does not fit the Asian Games, a sports feast for peace. Choe Ryong Hae, secretary of the Workers` Party who also came to Incheon, had visited China as Kim Jong Un’s special envoy in May last year while serving as head of the military’s general politburo, but he changed his cloth to people’s uniform at Beijing’s request, before meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Kim Jong Un has not made public appearance for more than a month since September 3, but he might have sought to demonstrate to the South that he has no health problem through the visit by his top deputies. Kim Yang Gon reportedly told South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo, “There is no problem to (Kim Jong Un’s health).” The Rodong Sinmun, the official daily of the North Korean Workers’ Party, lauded on Sunday the North’s performance (seventh overall) at the Asian Games, claiming it to be an outcome of Kim Jong Un’s policy to emphasize sports, but avoided mention about inter-Korean contacts.

In recent weeks, Kang Sok Ju, the North’s secretary for international affairs, and Lee Su Yong, its foreign minister, visited Europe and Asia as part of its efforts to diversify diplomacy, but they did not generate any notable achievement. As a result, Pyongyang might be seeking to gain our trust through the show of a surprise visit. The South Korean government once said that it could discuss the South’s May 24 (2010) sanctions against the North and the resumption of South Koreans’ tours to Mount Kumgang, which Pyongyang wants to discuss.” If the North admits to its past aggressions and pledges to prevent recurrence, inter-Korean relations could make speedy headway. Attention will be focused on proposal the North will make at the high-level contact in November and its sincerity.