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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun on Wednesday urged the South Korean government to wipe out the “disease of dependence on foreign forces,” warning that the tendency could lead to “destruction.”
In an analysis written by reporter Ho Yong Min, the party daily said “following foreign powers is an intensified manifestation of submission to the powerful, and there is nothing to gain from it.”
Seoul “will end up selling off the nation’s dignity and interests,” the Rodong said, if it relies on foreign powers without trusting in prospects for peaceful cooperation between the two Koreas.
“If you depend on others, you will continue to rely on them, and you will not be able to throw off the yoke of subjugation and subservience anytime,” the newspaper, the primary organ of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), said.
Seoul must “immediately abandon fossilized nature of absolutizing the ‘alliance’ with foreign forces and flunkeyism that it cannot live without the foreign power,” it continued, warning that current policy serves as a “poison that hurts inter-Korean relations and the obstacle to peace, prosperity, and unification.”
“The destination of following foreign forces is destruction… It is time to remove the disease of dependence on foreign forces which is the root of every kind of disasters.”
Wednesday’s article is notable: while the DPRK’s externally-focused state media has consistently criticized Seoul for its North Korea policy and recent close coordination with the U.S., the Rodong has largely refrained from anti-South rhetoric.
The emergence of the “disease of dependence on foreign powers” phrase this week is also exceptional, having last been used to criticize the Moon Jae-in government in a November 2017 piece in which the Rodong criticized Seoul’s “balanced diplomacy” between the U.S. and China.
The party daily that month also condemned high-level South Korean government officials as “patients… smitten by the disease of relying on foreign forces,” blasting calls for international coordination on the North Korean nuclear issue.
In its analysis on Wednesday, the Rodong also reiterated that “‘coordination over North Korea policy’ — which has been persistently compelled by foreign forces — creates room for them to intervene and impose pressure in every direction.”
Through that process, the party daily stressed, foreign nations were trying to deter the South Korean government from taking the lead in inter-Korean relations.
“If [South Korea] keeps clinging to the skirt of foreign forces commenting on ‘alliance’ with it… inter-Korean relations will inevitably undergo ups and downs,” the party daily said. “If [South Korea] ignores the lesson of history, it will be bound to repeat the mistake.”
But Wednesday’s analysis in the Rodong appears to have pulled some punches when compared to a commentary carried by the online Meari outlet released the same day.
That commentary explicitly blamed the “indecisive attitude of the South Korean authorities, who make a backward step walking on eggshells around someone” for the lack of progress made in implementing joint declarations agreed to by the two Koreas last year.
“The South Korean authorities clamor for their ‘firm willingness to implement inter-Korean relations’ at every chance,” Meari said in a Korean-language commentary written by Ko Chong Myong.
“The commitment that fails to contribute to improving inter-Korean relations and the pledge lacking practice are meaningless.”
Last year’s inter-Korean declarations aimed to eliminate “distrust and confrontation which have been piling up for a long time through substantive cooperation exchanges,” Meari said, urging Seoul to show its determination implement those agreements. “One action is better than a hundred words.”
Meanwhile, the Uriminzokkiri — another outlet aimed at international audiences — on Wednesday denounced the South for conducting the independent military and civilian “Ulchi Taeguk” drills last month.
An article written by Jang Il denounced the drills as a “reckless and dangerous provocation that has caused tensions on the Korean peninsula,” accusing Seoul of “double-faced behavior.”
“All these moves reveal how the South Korean authorities have outrageously violated and ridiculed the North-South Korean agreements that they made… in front of the entire nation.”
Seoul will face consequences should it “continue to adhere to dangerous military gambling against their own people in spite of the North’s repeated advice and warnings,” it added. “It should be clearly sure to remember that inter-Korean relations can return to the era of sharp confrontation in the past.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: White House