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Reopened three inter-Korean routes

Posted January. 23, 2018 07:58,   

Updated January. 23, 2018 08:11

한국어

A North Korean delegation led by Hyon Song-wol returned to the North Monday evening after checking venues for its proposed art performances at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Just like it did on Sunday, the delegation used the Gyeongui Line to cross the land border. A group of South Korean officials will make a three-day visit Monday to the Kumgang Mountain and Masikryong Ski Resort in North Korea to inspect the venues for a joint cultural event and ski training. This time, South Korean officials will cross the border via the East Sea Line. This means all three inter-Korean land routes including the Panmunjom, where inter-Korean talks were held recently, the Gyeongui Line and the East Sea Line have reopened.

The three inter-Korean land routes will frequently be used ahead of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. The Samjiyon Orchestra will head down to the South through Panmunjom while the North Korean Olympic delegation and athletes will take the Gyeongui Line. For a joint cultural event to be held at the Kumgang Mountain, a South Korean delegation will use the East Sea Line to visit the North. Some say the two Koreas have agreed to use land routes as international sanctions against North Korea prohibit the North from using planes and ships. Others say it is a strategic move to resume the operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex and the suspended tour programs to the Kumgang Mountain.

When the mines in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) were removed to construct a road connecting the North and the South, there were high hopes for easing of military tensions and changes in North Korea. But the results were disappointing. South Korea has faced repeated provocations from North Korea, let alone peaceful gestures. Tour programs to the Kumgang Mountain were suspended in 2008 when a Korean tourist was shot to death by a North Korean soldier. The Kaesong Industrial Complex was shut down following the North's long-range rocket launch and the fourth nuclear test in 2016. They were all caused by the reckless acts of North Korea.

Furthermore, cash generated from these the two projects can be used to bankroll the North Korean regime, which runs counter to international sanctions against the North. There have been suspicions that the cash generated from the tour programs and wages paid to North Korean workers were diverted to the development of nuclear weapons. This is why the South Korean government is keep emphasizing that the resumption of the two projects will be reviewed only if North Korea makes progress in giving up its nuclear weapons.

Nevertheless, the South Korean government appears to have expectations for the resumption of the projects. The Unification Ministry of South Korea said last week that it would establish the “New Economic Map Initiative of the Korean Peninsula,” which aims to divide the Korean Peninsula into three belts, such as the East Sea region, the West Sea region and the border region, until the first half of the year to promote cross-border economic cooperation. They say it is a blueprint for the future after the North Korean nuclear issue is resolved, but it has already become a cause of both expectation and doubt.

President Moon Jae-in urged the public Monday to show their support in maintaining the dialogue between the two Koreas even after the PyeongChang Winter Olympics just like they protect a candle in the wind. But if the North refuses to abandon its nuclear program, the international pressure on North Korea will only be escalated. Then, cooperation and exchange made between the two Koreas for the Olympics will stop at being a one-off event. Now is time to bring about a change in North Korea’s attitude rather than to raise false hopes of resuming tour programs to the Kumgang Mountain and operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex.