The Rodong Sinmun, the official daily of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, blasted President Moon Jae-in for his July 13 remarks in Singapore that “If the leaders (of North Korea and the United States) fail to keep promises they made on their own, they will be subject to stern judgment by the international community.” The daily called the remarks “useless preaching,” adding, “Who will ever be interested to hear rude illogical remarks (that Moon made) while making impudent prediction and turning a blind eye to the reality that both (North) Korea and the United States are striving to implement the joint statement in Singapore?”
Pyongyang has unleashed a flurry of criticism against President Moon for the first time since the inter-Korean summit in April. The key message of the Rodong Sinmun’s argument is that (the South) should not link progress in inter-Korean relations with the North’s denuclearization, and Pyongyang will only discuss the nuclear issue with Washington. This illustrates the North’s conventional strategy that it will meet with the South only for matters such as economic aid to the North remains unchanged. Of course, the South does not need to respond to this too sensitively. Currently, the international community has closely interlinked all different elements including the North’s denuclearization and economic aid through the framework of the United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang.
According to the UN sanctions, ships carrying materials from the North can be detained and inspected. However, the Seoul government said a ship carrying coal that entered South Korea is still only a suspicious ship. The government claims that South Korea lacks manpower with only one Grade 5 official of the Korea Customs Service investigating the case, and that importers of the material make conflicting argument. The U.S. State Department has warned that all U.N. member states are obliged to follow the U.N. Security Council resolutions, thus indirectly sending a warning to Seoul. If the South Korean government has valued implementation of sanctions as much as it has done inter-Korean dialogue, would this situation have happened at all?
There is little progress, if any, in the North’s denuclearization and its attitude, but expectations outpace the realty in South Korea. At a forum hosted by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Thursday, writer Ryu Shi-min (former Labor Minister), said, “(Kim Jong Un) is trying to change (the North) by using differently absolute power he inherited from his grandfather and father. That is an innovation.” He went on to say, “Is there anyone among the second- or third-generation owner-top managers of (South Korean) conglomerates who can be comparable to Kim Jong Un?” Considering the fact that second- and third-generation owners of major South Korean conglomerates have been credited for increasing the value of their companies by dozens of times, Ryu’s comparison hardly makes sense. It is about time that the South Korean government and society strictly reevaluated and adjusted their perceptions towards real progress in the North Korean nuclear issue.