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N. Korea halts name-calling against ruling party candidate Park

All Headlines 17:12 November 26, 2012

SEOUL, Nov. 26 (Yonhap) -- With South Korea's presidential election less than a month away, North Korea appears to have suspended its critical campaign against conservative party candidate Park Geun-hye, analysts said Monday, triggering speculation the communist state may eye a potential opportunity to mend ties with the South under a new administration.

Since last publishing an article accusing Park, the presidential candidate on the ruling Saenuri Party ticket, of leading an anti-North Korea policy line on Nov. 10, the country's leading Rodong Sinmun has discontinued its name-calling against Park in recent issues of the newspaper monitored in Seoul.

Except for a Nov. 13 dispatch critiquing Park's North Korean policy, the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) has also halted its frequent criticism of the conservative candidate whom the news agency used to accuse of copying President Lee Myung-bak's hard-line policy toward the North.

The North's propaganda Web site Uriminzokkiri has also toned down its usually harsh language on Park, describing her only as "the Saenuri Party candidate" in a Monday article, instead of repudiating her as it has previously done.

North Korea watchers in the South said the recent low-key moves shown by the North indicate a wait-and-see stance ahead of the South's Dec. 19 presidential election in which Park is in a neck-and-neck competition with Moon Jae-in, the liberal camp candidate.

They stressed the North behaved similarly ahead of the 2007 presidential election in the South, by temporarily ceasing its campaign against Lee.

North Korea suspended its criticism of Lee even after he took office in late February, 2008, before resuming its condemnation against his hard-line policy.

"A possible assumption is that the North has reduced its name-calling against Park in order to prepare for (potential) negotiations with the next administration in the South," said Chang Yong-suk, a researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University.

Seoul's recent condemnation of Pyongyang's alleged attempts to meddle in the December election may have also led to the toned-down media stance, experts noted.

Professor Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul said, "It is too early to determine the North's strategy over the name-calling suspension." The country could resume its condemnation of Park's hard-line policy any time as it had with the Lee administration, experts said.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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