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Minister urges NK leader to curb nuclear ambitions, return to dialogue

May 22, 2023 - 17:52 By Ji Da-gyum
Unification Minister Kwon Young-se speaks during a meeting with reporters at the Inter-Korean Dialogue Office in Seoul on Monday on the occasion of the first anniversary of his time in office. (Yonhap)

South Korea’s Unification Minister on Monday urged North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to make the “right decision” and change his course towards denuclearization, calling on Kim to reflect on his continuing and ongoing failures to boost the economy as a result of fixating on developing North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

Unification Minister Kwon Young-se underscored that Kim has not achieved his objective of improving the lives of the North Korean people, despite more than 11 years having elapsed since he assumed power in 2011.

Kim had in particular promised the North Korean people that they “would never have to tighten their belts again” in his first public speech at the Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang in April 2012, as part of his regime’s core “people-first politics.”

“The North Korean authorities should reflect on the current state of the country's economy, however,” Kwon told reporters during a news conference held to mark his first year in office, enumerating Kim’s abortive attempts to revitalize the country's ailing economy, including the implementation of five-year economic development plans.

“If North Korea makes a resolute decision for denuclearization, comes to the dialogue table and implements measures for substantial denuclearization, we are prepared to dramatically improve the livelihoods and economy of North Korea accordingly.”

Kwon reiterated the Yoon government’s stance that it has “no hostile intentions towards North Korea and is not seeking to change the status quo through the use of force.”

“We will be able to put any issues or concerns that North Korea may have on the dialogue table,” Kwon said at the Unification Ministry’s Inter-Korean Dialogue office in central Seoul.

“Chairman Kim Jong-un should choose the path of livelihood and cooperation, rather than provocation and isolation. We urge North Korea to make the right decision now for the sake of its people and their future.”

Kwon’s calls came as North Korea has refused to take regular phone calls from South Korea for more than six weeks since since April 7 by violating the inter-Korean commitment to hold calls through the liaison and military hotlines twice a day, in the morning and afternoon.

But Kwon assessed that the Yoon government has “laid the foundation to implement a sustainable North Korea and unification policies.”

“Above all, we have established principled inter-Korean relations, where we say what we have to say to North Korea without walking on eggshells around the country, and where we clearly do what we have to do.”