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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korea’s external-focused media on Monday and over the weekend slammed the South Korean government for its continued reluctance to reopen the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) and an ongoing domestic debate over humanitarian food aid.
In a Korean-language commentary written by Ko Chong Myong, the online outlet Meari today pointed to the Moon Jae-in government’s failure to resume work at the KIC as proof of its disinterest in implementing inter-Korean declarations.
“The stance of the South Korean authorities… is sufficient to raise doubts about whether they have the will to implement the North-South declarations,” the article claimed.
The Moon administration has been “engaged in inter-Korean issues with a passive attitude, while walking on eggshells around the foreign power,” it continued, reiterating criticism of Seoul’s linking the KIC’s opening to the issue of international sanctions.
“The U.S. has no justification to oppose the reoperation of the Kaesong Industrial Zone as it clarified its support for the Panmunjom Declaration… through the Singapore DPRK-U.S. Joint Statement,” Meari said.
“However, the South Korean authorities have postponed the reoperation of the Kaesong Industrial Zone,” it added.
Meari’s commentary comes just a week after a group of former KIC businessmen made their ninth official request for the South Korean government to allow them to visit their factories at the complex — a request Seoul is yet to answer.
It also followed criticism from the outlet concerning ongoing plans by Seoul to provide humanitarian assistance to Pyongyang.
In a commentary Sunday, the Meari said that the South Korean government “makes a fuss that humanitarian cooperation projects… could make a huge advance on inter-Korean relations.”
“This is a deception of public sentiment and a disrespectful and reasonless act against the same race.”
South Korea last week officially confirmed that it would push ahead with a plan to provide food aid to the North, following a phone call between President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump.
Meari over the weekend, however, criticized Seoul for “making empty specious remarks… and taking credit for it,” using the plans as a way to sidestep “fundamental issues” between the two Koreas.
“This is ridicule against the nation’s orientation and desire to write a new history of inter-Korean relations.”
The South Korean government, the outlet warned, should not “patch up the implementation of the historic North-South declarations by carrying out trivial barter transactions and person-to-person exchanges.”
Ministry of Unification (MOU) spokesperson Lee Sang-min on Monday declined to directly comment on the North Korean media coverage, reemphasizing Seoul’s position that “it will continue to review food aid at the humanitarian and compatriot-level.”
South Korean Minister of Unification Kim Yeon-chul is scheduled to have a meeting with civic and religious groups and experts on Tuesday afternoon, Lee added, to “collect the opinions of various circles of the public on humanitarian assistance to North Korea.”
Kim will gather views from members of Korea NGO Council for Cooperation with North Korea (KNCCK), Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation (KCRC), Korean Conference of Religous for Peace (KCRP), among others.
Additional steps to gather public opinion will follow, Lee added, explaining that the ministry has not yet set a specific deadline.
In spite of the “urgency” of the aid, he said, the MOU will “sufficiently gather opinions as issues pertinent to humanitarian assistance to North Korea and food aid require public support and consensus.”
Meanwhile, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), David Beasley, is set to meet South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha and unification minister Kim on Monday afternoon.
The visit is Beasley’s third to Seoul since becoming WFP head, and will see him attend the 3rd Global ODA Forum for Sustainable Agricultural Development hosted by the ROK Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs between Monday and Wednesday.
Thursday saw the foreign ministry announce that Beasley and Kang were set to exchange opinions on, among other things, a recent WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)-run joint investigation into the food situation in North Korea.
That report, issued on May 3, estimated that 10.1 million people — almost 40 percent of the population — are currently “food insecure and in urgent need of food assistance.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: KCNA