Posted : 2013-04-29 20:03
Updated : 2013-04-29 20:03

Why doesn't NK slam Park by name?

By Kim Tae-gyu

Despite its warlike rhetoric against South Korea amid rising tensions between the two countries, North Korea has yet to criticize President Park Geun-hye by name.

This contrasts to Park's predecessor former President Lee Myung-bak who was the direct target of a barrage of salvoes from Pyongyang barely a month after he took office.

Experts interpret this as a sign that the North has yet to give up all hope that the two Koreas will be able to mend fences through peacefully ending the current standoff.

"Once you attack the leader of your opponent by name, it is irrevocable. The North has shunned doing so up until now and that means that it has not given up on the new administration in the South," said Prof. Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies.

"This is a different approach compared to former President Lee. Our government needs to understand the minute differences and not be overwhelmed by the daily verbal attacks."

The North was hesitant to censure former President Lee by name after he took the oath on Feb. 25, 2008 but its patience ran dry within a month after South Korea urged it to scrap its nuclear ambitions in exchange for the chance to be enriched.

In an April 1, 2008 article, the Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, printed Lee's name scores of times to blatantly attack him and stuck to the policy thereafter.

In comparison, the Stalinist regime has shown some measure of restraint when it comes to directly dealing with the incumbent commander-in-chief despite the escalating tension.

The strongest rhetorical assault against Park came early this March when she condemned Pyongyang by saying "any country focusing merely on nuclear weapons will eventually collapse" in reference to its nuclear test on Feb. 12.

Pyongyang fell short of directly disparaging her. Instead it was quoted as saying the "venomous swish of a skirt" had something to do with the endless tension on the Korean Peninsula; ostensibly an indirect reference to the country's first female president.

With regard to the withdrawal of South Korean workers from the inter-Korean joint industrial complex in Gaeseong, it was former President Lee, not Park, whose name was on its statement.

The Rodong Sinmun warned in an article this week that Gaeseong may be permanently closed. It said this depends on whether "the incumbent administration will be branded as being more confrontational than the previous Lee Myung-bak administration."

Chang Yong-seok, a researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies affiliated with Seoul National University, said that there is considerable room for a dramatic compromise between the two Koreas as the North has not crossed the last line.

"Pyongyang declared that it has entered a state of war against Seoul but it has yet to attack the commander of the opponent. It may sound very strange but it amply demonstrates the essence of the ongoing confrontation," he said.

"On the one hand, Pyongyang continues its verbal tongue-lashing campaign, but on the other hand it seeks an exit strategy to discontinue the current impasse."

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