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Inter-Korean ties slumping from early days of new S. Korean administration

Inter-Korean ties slumping from early days of new S. Korean administration

Posted August. 20, 2022 07:35,   

Updated August. 20, 2022 07:35


As Kim Yo Jong, Vice director of the North Korean Workers’ Party’s Propaganda and Agitation Department, unleased criticism without reservation against the Yoon Suk-yeol administration’s ‘audacious plan,’ its roadmap for inter-Korean relations, watchers say inter-Korean ties that were already at low point will further slump. As Kim, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, who is in effect comprehensively overseeing South Korean affairs, mentioned President Yoon’s name nine times saying, “I hate Yoon Suk-yeol as human being,” the South Korean government responded by saying “She has crossed the red line.” The South Korean presidential office also expressed discomfort, saying “We deeply regret.”

However, some watchers say that the fact Pyongyang has reacted by directly mentioning the ‘audacious plan,’ can be seen as a signal that a dramatic turnaround can unfold in inter-Korean relations. “The fact Pyongyang refuted the audacious plan item by item means the North has closely examined the plan,” a ranking official in the Yoon administration said. “The fact the North intensified its criticism against the South could be indicative of the former’s intention to elevate its valuation before starting negotiations.”

Kim, who called the ‘audacious plan’ “the excessive revelation of (Yoon’s) ignorance,” blasted President Yoon by calling him “A heinous man who mentions an audacious plan today and pushes to implement war drills to invade the North tomorrow.” “The old saying said a dog will bark regardless of whether it is an adult dog or a pup,” and “The so-called president is not much different either,” she said bluntly. “While living in anxiety because he could be kicked out anytime due to messy economic situation and people’s livelihoods,’ how on earth can he afford to mention improvement of others’ economy and livelihood,” Kim said of Yoon sarcastically.

As Pyongyang effectively rejected Yoon’s audacious plan even by mentioning his name, the South Korean government instantly countered by expressing ‘regret’ across the board. “We deeply regret that the North has continued to make rude remarks by calling our President by name and distort our ‘audacious plan’ while continuing to express its intention to develop nuclear weapons,” the presidential office said. Unification Minister Kwon Young-se and the Foreign Affairs Ministry also expressed “‘strong regret.’ The ruling People Power party said, “’The audacious plan’ is a suggestion to secure humane life for North Korean people, not the Kim Jong Un regime that has stayed in power through violence and use of force for three consecutive generations,” adding, “If Pyongyang comes to the path of dialogue, we will keep open the door to peace.”

As Pyongyang has rejected the Yoon administration’s North Korea policy, which the new administration announced after agonizing, it is highly likely that tension will intensify further at least for the time being. Watchers say the North could step up its provocations by firing ballistic missiles and conducting nuclear tests after firing two cruise missiles on Wednesday, or 100th day since Yoon’s inauguration. Notably, with joint South Korea-US military drills set to start on Monday, the North could launch a flurry of provocations at the pretext of the drills.

Jin-Woo Shin niceshin@donga.com · Su-Young Hong gaea@donga.com