About the Author
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
South Korean humanitarian assistance to North Korea is a “non-essential and secondary issue” in improving DPRK-ROK relations, the country’s external-oriented DPRK Today reported on Monday, instead calling on Seoul and Pyongyang to resolve their “fundamental problems” as agreed to in last year’s joint declarations.
In an article written by an unnamed reporter, the DPRK Today condemned Seoul for “not actively taking the lead in the improvement of the relationship while walking on eggshells around the foreign power coercing the ‘adjustment of speed’ in inter-Korean relations.”
“[The South Korean authorities] continuously adhere to hostile acts including the enforcement of joint military drills with the foreign power, avoiding the implementation of the historic North-South Korean declarations and military agreement,” it said.
“It even… pretends to be interested in the implementation of the declarations, clamoring for humanitarian aid as well as cooperation and exchanges.”
Seoul announced earlier this month that it would seek to finance $8 million worth of funds to Pyongyang through the World Food Program (WFP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), as part of efforts to ease a months-long impasse in talks between the two sides.
The Moon Jae-in administration is also seeking to gather public opinion over the possibility of providing food aid to the DPRK.
But the DPRK Today on Monday accused Seoul of “raising the non-essential and secondary issue without considering solving fundamental problems identified in the inter-Korean declarations.”
“It can only be seen as an act deceiving public opinion,” the outlet said, stressing that improving inter-Korean relations would lead to “meaningful fruits for peace and unification.”
To this end, the outlet argued, Seoul must “implement basic issues included in the joint declarations and agreements adopted between the two Koreas and show a fundamental change in attitude.”
The report comes amid a series of articles in newspaper Tongil Sinbo and external online outlet Uriminzokkiri over the weekend dismissing the South Korean government’s plans to provide humanitarian aid and enhance inter-Korean cooperation and exchanges.
Sunday also saw external and online outlet the Uriminzokkiri blame the South Korean government for “continuing unstable situation” between the two Koreas.
“The fair domestic and foreign public opinion say that the fundamental cause [of tensions] is that the South Korean authorities show an insincere attitude under unfair conditions and pretexts…,” the outlet said in an article written by journalist Kim Jun Dal.
Tongil Sinbo on Saturday, too, said the “train of inter-Korean relations — which made the first start — is held up as the North-South declarations are not implemented properly.”
Inter-Korean relations will continue to stall, the weekly newspaper warned, if the South Korean government continues to push “secondary and trivial humanitarian assistance and non-political cooperation and exchanges without considering resolving the fundamental issues stipulated in the North-South declarations.”
In the aftermath of the Moon Jae-in administration’s official confirmation that it would push ahead with plans to provide aid to the DPRK, North Korean external-focused slammed the plans for humanitarian cooperation as a “deception of public sentiment and a disrespectful and reasonless act.”
The ROK Ministry of Unification (MOU) on Monday directly commented on the DPRK media coverage, with Lee Sang-min spokesperson stressing that Seoul plans to complete consultations with international organizations over the plans by the end of the week.
Following those discussions, Lee added, the government will begin the necessary domestic procedures, including gaining approval for the aid from the Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Promotion Council.
In stark contrast to externally-focused media’s condemnation of Seoul, the DPRK state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Saturday reported that wheat donated by the Russian government through the WFP had arrived in the country that same day.
Sunday also saw ruling party organ the Rodong Simnun report on the donation, adding that the food assistance will contribute towards “developing traditional relations of friendship and cooperation between the DPRK and Russia.”
Meanwhile, South Korea also rejected North Korean media claims that Seoul had violated last September’s inter-Korean military agreement through several recent joint exercises.
KCNA on Saturday condemned the South Korean military for taking part in the Global Thunder 2019 exercise, led by U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) and aimed at enhancing nuclear readiness.
“The military has been faithfully implementing the military agreement of September 19,” spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense (MND) Choi Hyun-soo told assembled media during a regular briefing.
“The training we have conducted is defensive in nature and has been staged with adjusted scale in accordance with regulations.”
The South Korean government and military are also set to hold the independent Ulchi Taeguk exercise from Monday to Thursday.
The drills serve as a scaled-back alternative to the now-suspended Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG), previously jointly-staged by the South Korean and U.S. militaries in August.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Pyeongyang Press Corps