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Parties unify in condemnation of North Korea

Ruling Democratic Party of Korea leader Lee Hae-chan (Yonhap)
Ruling Democratic Party of Korea leader Lee Hae-chan (Yonhap)

Political parties raised a unified voice against North Korea’s destruction of a joint liaison office, criticizing the provocation that jeopardizes relations and urging the North to return to dialogue.

Ruling Democratic Party of Korea leader Lee Hae-chan said Wednesday that North Korea has crossed the line by blowing up the symbol of the Panmunjom Declaration, which was signed by President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during their first summit in April 2018 to pledge cooperation on ending conflict and bringing a new era of reconciliation and peace.

“There’s a limit of magnanimity that you shouldn’t cross in diplomacy between countries,” he said.

On Tuesday, Pyongyang set off an explosion at the joint liaison office in the North Korean border town of Kaesong. The office was established in 2018 to foster better ties with Seoul. Prior to the blast, Pyongyang issued warnings to sever all cross-border communication channels and terminate the inter-Korean military agreement as well as remilitarize inter-Korean project sites.

Lee urged the North to stop provocations and return to dialogue, saying such actions are counter to the wishes of all people in South and North Korea alike who have been putting efforts toward the peace and prosperity of the peninsula.

“Such behavior may have a shock effect, but it will have a negative impact on the peace of the Korean Peninsula in the long term by instilling distrust and anxiety in the minds of Korean people,” he said.

He also called for a ban on sending anti-North Korea leaflets across the border, which Pyongyang claimed to be the trigger that led to its decision on the demolition of the liaison office and militarization of inter-Korean project sites.

On June 5, the Democratic Party introduced a bill prohibiting cross-border distribution of propaganda leaflets, and Gyeonggi Province on Wednesday designated all five cities and counties bordering North Korea as “danger zones” to prevent people from conducting such activities. The five danger zones are Yeoncheon, Pocheon, Paju, Gimpo and Goyang.

Rep. Park Kwang-on casted doubt as to what Pyongyang could get by straining relations with the South and to how the international community would receive the North’s irrational and destructive behavior, which appears to stem from its frustration with its stalemated denuclearization talks with the United States and South Korea.

“President Moon already put forward several proposals for the peace of the two Koreas, which are an inter-Korean railway project, a joint Korean bid for the 2032 Olympics, a listing of the Demilitarized Zone to the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage as well as an individual tourism plan to the North. They are tasks to move forward with the peace process,” he said.

Rep. Lee Hyung-seok from the ruling party said fortification of the Kaesong industrial park would only intensify tensions and sever communication.

“Tensions between the two Koreas mean that they will return to the past era of confrontation, and will only lead to the isolation of the North. South and North Korea should pursue interactive dialogue and cooperation,” he said.

The main opposition United Future Party said North Korea clearly abandoned the inter-Korean pacts by reducing the liaison office to ashes and criticized the neighbor for insulting remarks toward President Moon.

“Our people are more anxious than anyone else in the face of the strained inter-Korean relations. ...We should not just warn them now, but we should closely predict and respond preemptively to the actions of North Korea in the future,” party spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye said in a statement.

She also proposed inter-party talks between President Moon and opposition party chief Kim Jong-in to come up with bipartisan measures to counter Pyongyang’s possible provocations in the future, adding that the government’s “strategic patience” toward the North should be reexamined.

By Park Han-na (