South Korea: What Me Worry?
While the rest of the world sounds very worried, the South Korean government is downplaying reports that North Korea may be preparing to test an intercontinental ballistic missile, according to reports in the country's online media.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday that such a test by the North would be "a very serious matter and indeed a provocative act." Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said a launch could lead to "severe action."
But in South Korea, three leading English-language news sites carried reports citing unnamed government sources who downplayed the missile test story, saying there is no "solid evidence" of a planned launch. Editorialists responded by blasting the government of President Roh Moo-hyun for being too conciliatory toward the North.
The conflicting response of government and media reflects the complexity of South Korean public opinion where fear of the North's nuclear arsenal and disgust with its human rights abuses compete against popular sentiment for unification of the peninsula and, as The Post's Anthony Faiola reported last month, resentment caused by the presence of U.S. troops in the country for the past half century.
The reports of a possible missile launch came as the government of President Roh Moo-Hyun was hosting 200 North Korean visitors to the city of Kwanju in celebration of the anniversary of the two countries' first summit meeting in June 2000. The government leaks seem calculated to defend its inter-Korean diplomacy by downplaying the North Korean threat without entirely dismissing it.
"Military and intelligence sources here said there is no solid evidence yet that leads the South Korean government to a hasty conclusion North Korea has completed fueling the missile and would test-fire it soon," the Korea Times reported.
Similarly, The Korean Herald said "North Korea's plans for a test launch could be for a satellite and not a ballistic missile."
According to the Chosun Ilbo news site, "the South Korean government believes that some in Japan and the U.S. are having a field day with the uproar over alleged preparations for a long-range ballistic missile test in North Korea, an insider said Monday."
"Many news services expected the launch over the weekend," one of the sources said on condition of anonymity. "But it is totally a matter of speculation to judge if North Korea really fueled the projectile and when the North would launch it."
Editorials: There's Certainly Cause for Alarm!
The Chosun Ilbo editors say the government's muted response to the missile launch story "inspires no confidence."
"We worry where the administration is leading our nation," said the Joong Ang Daily. "South Koreans are worried and angry because North Korea ignores our overtures and plans aggressive actions. But the president and his cabinet are quiet."
A missile launch, say the editors of Dong-A Ilbo, "will thwart the six-party talks system, strengthen the Bush administration's hardline policy and Japan's military power, and weaken China's role as a peacemaker. "
"The Roh Moo-hyun administration, which has been siding with the North, will be in a difficult situation receiving pressure from the international community. It could be forced to make a choice between the Korea-U.S. relationship and the South-North one."
They say the government "should restore the traditional cooperation with the U.S. and Japan and take strong measures against the North."
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: Gene | June 20, 2006 08:08 AM
Posted by: Ed | June 20, 2006 08:19 AM
Posted by: Gary Masters | June 20, 2006 08:30 AM
Posted by: Franklin | June 20, 2006 08:36 AM
Posted by: Robert Rose | June 20, 2006 08:48 AM
Posted by: Jason | June 20, 2006 09:00 AM
Posted by: Chris | June 20, 2006 09:29 AM
Posted by: John | June 20, 2006 09:45 AM
Posted by: Alex J. Powell | June 20, 2006 09:56 AM
Posted by: Brandon | June 20, 2006 09:59 AM
Posted by: John | June 20, 2006 10:28 AM
Posted by: Robert Rose | June 20, 2006 11:50 AM
Posted by: Johnny | June 20, 2006 11:52 AM
Posted by: Robert Rose | June 20, 2006 12:23 PM
Posted by: Lagging | June 20, 2006 12:27 PM
Posted by: Kristin S. Kim | June 20, 2006 12:35 PM
Posted by: John | June 20, 2006 12:40 PM
Posted by: John | June 20, 2006 12:48 PM
Posted by: Chris | June 20, 2006 01:03 PM
Posted by: washingtonpost.com editors | June 20, 2006 01:16 PM
Posted by: suresh sheth | June 20, 2006 01:18 PM
Posted by: Lenny | June 20, 2006 01:50 PM
Posted by: Robert | June 20, 2006 02:47 PM
Posted by: Todd | June 20, 2006 03:55 PM
Posted by: Elenita | June 20, 2006 03:58 PM
Posted by: J. Lee | June 20, 2006 04:47 PM
Posted by: Brandon | June 20, 2006 05:01 PM
Posted by: P. J. Casey | June 20, 2006 05:36 PM
Posted by: John D. | June 20, 2006 08:34 PM
Posted by: chris | June 21, 2006 10:00 AM
Posted by: Jay | June 22, 2006 08:45 AM
Posted by: MJ | June 25, 2006 11:05 AM
Posted by: Robert Rose | July 4, 2006 10:54 PM
Posted by: John G. | July 6, 2006 12:56 PM
Posted by: Alex J. Powell | July 15, 2006 04:05 PM
Posted by: citizen | September 23, 2006 10:45 AM
The comments to this entry are closed.