Only South Korea is Blind to North Korea

Chosun-Ilbo Washington Correspondent: Kim Jin-myun

Thomas Ohea Quintana, the U.N. special rapporteur on North Korean human rights, is expected to send an official notice to the South Korean government that the Unification Ministry's crackdown on North Korean Human Rights groups has political oppressed and violated their rights. Quintana, who attended the Washington D.C. video conference on Friday, said, "We will also invite other special rapporteurs from the U.N. Human Rights Council to support the official notice." Considering that the foreign minister was a former deputy representative of the U.N. Office of the Supreme Council for Human Rights, such criticism is shameful.

South Korea's policy toward North Korea often gives the impression that it is far from the the international community. The same goes for the "bartering" of South Korean sugar for North Korean liquor, which was recently block by sanctions on North Korea. Aside from U.N. and U.S. criticism of trade South Korea - North Korea trade, which undermines sanctions, a more fundamental problem lies in South Korea's current perception of North Korea and what kind of country it truly it is.

Since Kim Jong Un took power, North Korea has developed nuclear warheads and missiles at break neck speed. They even call for nuclear disarmament of the U.S. Many in the ruling party seem to want to blame the U.S. for sanctions against North Korea. However, the fact that North Korea is under high-intensity U.N. sanctions also means that the international community recognizes North Korea's nuclear and missile capabilities as threat. Even China and Russia, which have veto power in the Security Council, have not denied this serious reality.

That's not all. On August 26th, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Treasury, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Cyber Command issued a joint alert on North Korea's financial hacking operations. It is said that a hacking team under the North's Reconnaissance General Bureau tried to steal money from ATMs by infecting foreign bank payment systems with malicious codes. The next day, the U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit to confiscate 280 accounts used by North Korea to launder millions of dollars stolen by hacking into the crypto currency exchange.

North Korea is not only a nuclear power but also maintains state-of-the-art cyber operations capabilities, as well. This is what the international community sees as North Korea. That's why sanctions are being imposed. The South Korean Unification Minister, who deals with North Korea, is pushing ahead with the plan to send sugar to North Korea for alcohol. I would not be surprised if Kim Jong-un was insulted by this offer.

In the 1980s, when the unification minister was a college student, "Let's learn about North Korea" and not view them as a "Puppet Regime" was a popular saying in South Korean society. No one would be able to apply that discourse as it was at that time, but looking at what the Unification Ministry is doing these days, I can't erase the impression that it is anachronistic. 2020 North Korea is not the North Korea of the 1980s, and South Korea's obligation to the international community regarding North Korea's nuclear and human rights issues has changed. If we are not sure about that, why should we learn more about North Korea in 2020?


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