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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korean state-run online media on Tuesday denounced South Korea for its excessively “prudent” approach to inter-Korean economic cooperation, accusing Seoul of “succumbing to the pressure of the U.S.”
In an article written under the byline of writer Kim Jun Dal, the Uriminzokkiri — widely seen as externally-focused media not for domestic consumption — said the ROK’s “prudent stance” in inter-Korean relations was “disappointing.”
Instead of “making active efforts to continue the flow of the improvement of the North-South relationship,” the article continued, Seoul is “openly succumbing to the pressure of the U.S. and conservative forces.”
“This is an evasion of responsibility to implement the North-South declarations committed in front of the entire nation.”
The outlet also reiterated criticism of the Moon administration for its attempts to “push forward inter-Korean cooperation and exchanges… within the framework of sanctions” and its preoccupation with “considering the U.S. stance” over the resumption of work at the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) and Mount Kumgang.
Seoul must not “forget about its grave responsibility at a grave historic period” as a party with an obligation to implement inter-Korean declarations, it said.
“If the South Korean authorities continue to take the indecisive attitude in inter-Korean relations walking on eggshells around the U.S. and conservative forces…, it will lead to tragic consequences and be abandoned by the public sentiment of every class and the entire nation.”
Seoul’s unification ministry in its 2019 Work Plan committed to planning for the resumption of work at the KIC and tourism at Mount Kumgang while adhering to “the framework of sanctions on North Korea” — a position Pyongyang has condemned.
President Moon Jae-in has also emphasized the importance of cooperation with Washington, saying in a speech last month that he would seek to discuss plans to restart those cooperation projects with the U.S.
A meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) days later, too, saw unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon report that his ministry would “prepare for consultation with the U.S. after drawing up measures to resume” cooperation at the KIC and Mount Kumgang tourism.
But the South Korean government in recent weeks appeared to have sought to dampen expectations of a rapid resumption of work at the two sites.
The 2019 plan to implement the Master Plan on Development of Inter-Korean Relations between 2018 and 2022 — reported to the National Assembly on March 28 — saw Seoul commit to taking “multifaceted efforts” to establish conditions to restart work at the KIC and Mount Kumgang.
It also saw the administration pledge to push ahead with plans to inspect facilities at the KIC as a priority, as well as to hold inter-Korean discussions to ensure the security — and property rights — of its citizens will be protected in the event of future cooperation.
But amid a growing impasse between the two Koreas, it appears this more cautious approach appears unlikely to bring Pyongyang back to the table.
Monday also saw state-run and external-focused online outlet the DPRK Today carry an editorial condemning Seoul for its “prudent stance on inter-Korean relations.”
The South Korean government’s actions, it said, “severely spoiled the flow of improving the North-South relationship,” blaming the South Korean presidential office, Ministry of Unification (MOU), and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) for their indecision.
Repeating Uriminzokkiri’s claim that Seoul is surrendering to the “pressure of the U.S. and conservative forces which block the improvement of inter-Korean relations,” the outlet said “external and internal anti-reunification forces” were seeking to undermine ties.
Though North Korean outlets have in recent weeks frequently attacked South Korea’s government along these lines, this week’s criticism comes as Seoul and Washington prepare for their seventh summit in Washington next week.
Second deputy chief of South Korea’s presidential National Security Office (NSO) Kim Hyun-chong on Monday met with the U.S. deputy national security advisor Charles Kupperman at the White House to discuss the agenda for the upcoming summit, South Korean media reported.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Blue House