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Minister warns against trusting NK stated intentions, says Moon misguided

United Front Department renamed as bureau 10, shifts focus to psychological warfare, Unification Minister confirms

By Ji Da-gyum

Published : May 20, 2024 - 15:31

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Unification Minister Kim Yung-ho speaks during a news conference Monday at the Inter-Korean Relations Management Bureau building in Seoul. (Yonhap) Unification Minister Kim Yung-ho speaks during a news conference Monday at the Inter-Korean Relations Management Bureau building in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Unification Minister Kim Yung-ho on Monday issued a warning of the severe adverse security consequences that South Korea could face if it relies on the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's professed intentions of denuclearization.

The minister's remarks directly contradict the memoir of former President Moon Jae-in, in which he wrote that Kim Jong-un "earnestly explained his commitment to denuclearization."

"Placing complete trust in North Korea's intentions would only lead to extremely negative consequences for our security," Kim told reporters during a press conference in Seoul when questioned about his views on the account of North Korea in Moon's memoir.

Moon, who held three inter-Korean summits in 2018, said that "Chairman Kim repeatedly used such expressions, stating that nuclear weapons are strictly for guaranteeing (North Korea's) own safety and that he has no intention of using them," in his memoir published Saturday.

Kim underscored the need for South Korea's policy toward North Korea to prioritize an assessment of North Korea's nuclear and missile capabilities over its professed intentions.

"With North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and missiles, the country has capabilities to pose a threat to us. However, if we concentrate solely on North Korea's intentions while overlooking its capabilities, it would result in a misjudgment of the situation," the minister said.

Drawing a parallel to the outbreak of World War II, the minister cautioned against relying solely on stated intentions, citing the United Kingdom's trust in Adolf Hitler's intentions and subsequent appeasement policy as a stark reminder.

"Prime Minister Chamberlain placed full trust in Hitler's intentions. This is a prime example of what we call an appeasement policy. The Munich Agreement, an outcome of appeasement policy, was followed by the outbreak of World War II the following year," he said.

Kim continued, "This is precisely why the government is implementing the 3D policy."

The Yoon Suk Yeol government's 3D policy encompasses deterrence, emphasizing the robustness of military capabilities to deter North Korean threats; dissuasion, discouraging North Korea's pursuit of missile and nuclear advancements; and dialogue aimed at achieving denuclearization.

The minister also dismissed Moon's accounts which seemingly attribute the failure of the 2019 Hanoi summit to the US side, stating that "President Trump and the US negotiating team did not properly understand North Korea's proposal" during the summit.

"The failure to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue and the collapse of negotiations must squarely be attributed to North Korea, the root cause of the problem," he said.

In Kim's view, the breakdown in denuclearization talks "stemmed from North Korea's passive negotiating stance."

"Hence, it is unfair to hold the United States, our ally, accountable for the failure to achieve North Korea's denuclearization," he said.

Kim also voiced opposition to the Moon government's policy toward defectors. He cited the testimony of a member of one of two families who defected by boat last year, asserting that "if the Moon Jae-in government had continued, they would not have decided to defect."

Kim suggested that the Moon government's decision to repatriate North Korean fishers in 2019 -- and later faced allegations of forcible repatriation -- set a negative precedent for individuals considering defecting to South Korea.

"Listening to the testimonies of the North Korean defectors who arrived in South Korea last year, it becomes clear what implications the Moon Jae-in government's North Korea policy holds for North Korean residents," according to Kim.

On Monday, the Unification Ministry also announced that the government would promulgate amendments Tuesday to the Regulations on Various Commemorative Days to designate July 14 as North Korean Defectors' Day.

"July 14 will be commemorated annually as a day under the auspices of the Unification Ministry, with the aim of embracing North Korean defectors, enhancing their rights, and fostering a unified culture between North and South Korean residents to promote unity awareness," the ministry said in a statement.

Speaking at a news conference, Kim also revealed that North Korea has changed the name of the United Front Department, which had been responsible for overseeing and coordinating North Korea's strategic and tactical operations toward South Korea since its inception in 1978.

The reshuffle aligns with the North Korean leader's order to abolish inter-Korean organizations, as announced during the year-end party plenum.

The now-defunct department under the Party Central Committee retains its function in psychological warfare targeting South Korea, the minister said.

"While North Korea has not officially announced it yet, the 'United Front Department' has been renamed as the 'Central Committee of the Workers' Party (of Korea) Bureau 10,' and it is now focused on psychological warfare functions."