About the Author
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
DPRK state-run media on Tuesday called on Seoul to take measures to reopen now-shuttered Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) and resume tourism at the Mount Kumgang resort, while also denouncing the South for postponing inter-Korean cooperation projects due to unilateral and international sanctions.
An article carried by the Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), criticized the South Korean government for delaying inter-Korean cooperation and exchange projects in an editorial titled “What blocks a new journey of inter-Korean relations.”
In the editorial, the DPRK’s most widely-circulated newspaper claimed “actual movements haven’t been detected… despite there being a lot of public support” for implementing inter-Korean projects.
“As the South Korean authorities handle inter-Korean relations wearing the glasses of May 24 measures and UN sanctions… it has gotten itself into trouble,” the Rodong said.
Citing recent inter-Korean talks on railway and road cooperation, Tuesday’s general-level military talks, plans to establish a joint liaison office at the KIC, reunions of separated families, and unification basketball games as examples, the op-ed complained that “such scenes don’t lead to very vigorous and practical flow of the improvement in relations.”
The Rodong also denounced the South Korean government for maintaining unilateral sanctions – known as the May 24 measures – against Pyongyang, which it claimed were “fabricated during the previous conservative regime,” describing the behavior as “preposterous.”
The so-called May 24 measures were imposed by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in May 2010 following North Korea’s sinking of the ROK Cheonan warship.
Citing those sanctions as a major barrier, the newspaper urged the Moon administration to put efforts into reopening the KIC, whose operation was suspended by the Park Geun-hye administration in February 2016.
“Why is the current ruling power — which expressed vehement resentment of the closure of the Kaesong Industrial District more than any others — fettered with the shackle of [unilateral] sanctions on North Korea with regard to inter-Korean relations…?” the Rodong said, criticizing Seoul for “putting its hands and feet in a leg-iron.”
The Rodong also accused of the Moon administration of “prioritizing the ‘alliance’ rather than inter-Korean relations” and “focusing on advertising its achievement by fostering the atmosphere for inter-Korean relations while choosing the easy and flat road rather than breaking through a difficult situation.”
The daily newspaper also called for the resumption of tourism at Mount Kumgang resort, which had been jointly run by Seoul and Pyongyang until the Lee Myung-bak administration suspended operations in July 2008.
“Mount Kumgang is the pride of the nation and the people, our people should enjoy the scenery and pleasure to his heart’s content more than anyone else,” the Rodong said. “Why do the foreign power’s sanctions matter when [people] look at their nation’s famous mountain?”
The newspaper said it was a “heart-breaking reality of North-South relations” that South Koreans are unable to tour Mount Kumgang while foreigners can.
The DPRK state media previously denounced Seoul for not swiftly pushing ahead with inter-Korean cooperation projects and for its concerns about international sanctions and cost.
Tuesday’s commentary sees Pyongyang ratchet up this criticism, slamming the South Korean government for seeking exemptions from the UN sanctions committee.
Inter-Korean projects connecting and modernizing the railways and roads were being slowed down by this attitude, the Rodong said, adding the South had “wasted time” on low-cost projects.
“The ‘conditions’ the South Koreans repeated… mean when the U.S. and UN sanctions on the DPRK are lifted. In other words, it is the time when someone’s denuclearization is realized,” the newspaper said.
The Rodong said the South took “reckless measures to comply with sanctions,” accusing Seoul of putting pressure on and restraining organizations and people seeking inter-Korean cooperation and exchange projects.
“The South Korean unification ministry openly demands those who enter North Korea to take flights other than [national airliner] Air Koryo and interrupted people so that they can’t buy a cup of water properly,” it said, adding it is no different from the “acts of confrontation” of previous conservative administrations.
Tuesday also saw state-run online outlets the Uriminzokkiri and DPRK Today release articles urging the Moon administration not to adhere to the international sanctions framework and to speed up the implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration.
Edited by Oliver Hotham