A top South Korean presidential adviser on Monday said that any political plots North Korea has for the PyeongChang Olympics should be allowed to play out, adding fuel to the rising criticism against Seoul’s handling of Pyongyang’s participation in the games.
President Moon Jae-in’s special adviser on unification and security Moon Chung-in said at a special lecture at the Paris School of International Affairs that Seoul stands to gain more than Pyongyang, even if the regime has ulterior motives for taking part in the games.
Moon Chung-in speaks at a special lecture at the Paris School of International Affairs on Monday. Yonhap
“Let them enjoy the (political) game, but we will have greater gain, I would say that the PyeongChang Winter Olympics is a positive sum game,” Moon Chung-in said.
The presidential adviser also said that although opposition parties’ claim that the event is being used as a stage for North Korean propaganda, the risks are worth taking if the events lead to changes in Pyongyang’s actions.
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party immediately jumped at the comments, accusing Moon Chung-in of becoming “Kim Jong-un’s mouthpiece” and the Moon Jae-in government of groveling to Pyongyang.
This is not the first time the presidential adviser has been at the center of controversy. In the past, he stated that South Korea-US military drills and US military assets in the South could be scaled down if the North freezes its missile and nuclear programs, raising vehement criticism from conservatives.
Moon Chung-in’s latest comments, which he stressed were his own opinions and not that of the South Korean government, goes against the position taken by the US.
On Wednesday, a White House official told members of the US media that Vice President Mike Pence’s attendance of the Feb. 9 Olympic opening ceremony is partly aimed at offsetting Pyongyang’s “charade.”
According to the official, Pence has “grave concerns” that Pyongyang will “hijack” the message sent by the games, and that his presence at the opening ceremony on Feb. 9 will “ensure that from a messaging standpoint that it isn’t turned into two weeks of propaganda.”
During the lecture in Paris, Moon Chung-in also raised the possibility of North Korea resuming provocations after the games.
He said that South Korea and the US resuming joint military exercises could prompt the North to resume provocations and bring about a re-escalation of tension on the peninsula. He called for a cautious approach by Seoul.
The North has long accused Seoul and Washington of plotting to overthrow it, with joint military drills as practice for an invasion. South Korea and the US have agreed to postpone their drills usually held in March until the PyeongChang Olympics and Paralympics are over.
Saying that the US views inter-Korean talks as North Korea’s attempt at causing friction in South Korea-US relations, Moon Chung-in also said that it is essential for Seoul to change such views held by the US.
Moon Chung-in also cautioned North Korea to follow the norms of the international community if it wants to be treated as a normal country, adding that the US will take a firmer stance against the regime should the current inter-Korean talks fail.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org