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Seoul`s secrecy in inter-Korean contact

Posted October. 18, 2014 18:23,   


North Korea on Wednesday unilaterally disclosed details about the latest inter-Korean military talks on the same day. It is an international norm that such information is announced through mutual agreement. However, the North has repeatedly exposed behind-the-scene information about inter-Korean talks, to the embarrassment of the South Korean government.

When the inter-Korean working-level contract in July to discuss the North`s participation in the Incheon Asian Games produced no result, Pyongyang disclosed Seoul`s proposals and held it responsible for the collapse of the negotiations. In June 2011, the North`s National Defense Commission exposed details about a secret contact to discuss ways to hold an inter-Korean summit. Well aware of Pyongyang`s behavior, Seoul was caught off guard yet again.

The North made slight of the South from the time when North Korean military chief Hwang Pyong So urged Kim Kwan-jin, head of the National Security Office at Seoul`s presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, to hold urgent talks. Offering to discuss the October 7 naval skirmish off the west coast that was caused by a North Korean patrol boat`s crossing of a de fact maritime border, the North put forward Kim Yong Chol, director of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, as Hwang`s proxy. Kim was not a counterpart equal to the South Korean national security chief. In addition, Kim Yong Chol is known to have been involved in the North`s attacks on a South Korean submarine and a frontline island in 2010, suggesting Pyongyang`s intention to neutralize the Northern Limit Line as a de facto sea border.

Seoul rightfully sent Ryu Je-seung, the Ministry of National Defense`s policy chief, as the chief negotiator. However, it was not right for the South Korean government to keep mum about the contact, saying that it was Pyongyang`s request. Just as the South Korean government came under criticism for its secrecy in North Korea affairs, Pyongyang disclosed that it was Seoul that requested the contact remain in secret. The South Korean government belatedly admitted it. Had Seoul pursued dialogue in a transparent manner from the beginning, it would not have been embroiled a game of truth.

North Korea throws away its promise to the international community just as one would throw away an old hat, just as it did with the 2002 Geneva agreement. Although there still is a possibility for a second round of high-level contact, Seoul doesn`t need to cling to it. Just as President Park Geun-hye said that if inter-Korean talks go nowhere, all the government has to do it to explain why to the public. The South Korean government should play fair so that the North cannot resort to ungentlemanly schemes.