North Korea has challenged South Korean presidential candidate Park Geun-hye to distinguish her policy from Lee Myung-bak’s in an “open questionnaire” released by the Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea. It is the first time in nearly three weeks that the North had mentioned the conservative Saenuri Party candidate by name in its propaganda.
The questionnaire was published before comments made by Park’s spokesman Ahn Hyung-hwan, who demanded that the North should immediately stop the loading of the first stage of the rocket and also accused Pyongyang of using weapons of mass destruction to “blackmail” the ROK into giving concessions and support.
The absence of Park’s name from North Korean propaganda had led some analysts to speculate that the North may have been “eyeing a potential opportunity to mend ties with the South under a new administration.” At the same time, these outlets continued to blast Lee Myung-bak and the Saenuri Party on a near daily basis, saying that the South would face “unbearable misfortune” if the party were to stay in power (i.e. Park was elected).
While the questionnaire is harshly critical of Park’s words in recent months, calling them “contradictory” and confrontational, it does not close the door on working with a Park administration in the future. However, it says that Park must “clarify her true intention,” and say whether or not she will follow in Lee Myung-bak’s footsteps.
Most notably, it asks how her plan on North Korea’s nuclear program is different from Lee Myung-bak’s when both demand rolling back the nuclear program as a precursor to restarting aid. In a major foreign policy speech given by Park in November she said, “pursuant to forward movement in denuclearization commensurate political, economic, and diplomatic steps will be taken.” Lee Myung-bak’s plan, known as “Vision 3000”, would have provided high-levels of economic assistance to the North in exchange for disabling its nuclear program.
But reflecting the sometimes contradictory nature of North Korean propaganda, state newspaper Rodong Sinmun today seemingly closed the door to any possibility of an improvement of relations with another conservative administration. A by-lined article explained this morning explained, “it is as clear as noonday that if the conservative regime emerges again in South Korea, it is impossible to achieve social progress and reform nor is it possible to improve the inter-Korean relations and remove the danger of a nuclear war from this land.”
While the questionnaire has raised renewed complaints that the North is attempting to interfere in the South Korean election, it will almost certainly be overshadowed by the upcoming North Korean rocket launch. Ironically, many analysts believe that the rocket launch will bolster Park’s candidacy to the detriment of the progressive candidate, Moon Jae-in, who has championed restarting the Sunshine Policy.
Thanks to Jaesung Ryu for translation assistance
Picture: Korea Flickr