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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Oct. 4)

All News 07:16 October 04, 2016

President's remarks
: Urging North Koreans to defect undermines stability

President Park Geun-hye's anti-North Korea remarks are becoming increasingly tough and hostile. During her speech marking the nation's Armed Forces Day Saturday, she urged North Korean soldiers and citizens to abandon their impoverished country and defect.

"The universal values of freedom, democracy, human rights and welfare are the precious rights you should also enjoy. We will keep the path open for you to find hope and life. Please come to the bosom of freedom in the South at any time," she said.

In her Aug. 15 National Liberation Day speech, President Park called on North Koreans, including working-level officials, to join inter-Korean unification efforts. But this marks the first time that she has directly urged North Korean citizens and rank-and-file soldiers to defect.

It appears that the nation's first female head of state is countering Pyongyang's nuclear blackmail with seemingly radical remarks.

Park's persistent hard-line stance is no doubt intended to pressure Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and missile programs by separating the North's establishment from ordinary people. This is taken as indicating that Park is committing herself to resolving the North Korean nuclear logjam through a regime change instead of dialogue.

Park's hard-line position is also seen as a clear message to the North that the isolated regime won't survive if it neglects its duty to take care of people's livelihood and is bent on developing its nuclear and missile programs.

But Park's unilateral pursuit of strong-arm tactics is apprehensive and dangerous.

More than anything else, one cannot help but wonder if President Park might be haunted by an unrealistic theory of collapse. There is no denying that peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula might be undermined if Kim Jong-un, the North's young leader, takes Park's hard-line stance as meaning that the South can risk waging war.

Park's remarks are a far cry from the official position of the South Korean government that the purpose of pressure tactics against the North is not to seek its collapse but to encourage the rogue state to give up its nuclear brinkmanship and return to the negotiating table. True, since its fifth nuclear test on Sept. 9, more pundits have raised the possibility of regime change in Pyongyang. But given that China and Russia still back up the Kim regime tacitly, these expectations are obviously premature.

The United Nations has been slapping the toughest sanctions ever on North Korea in recent months, but it's questionable if these penalties will cause it to eventually collapse. Even if regime change is possible, the North's collapse without preparations would be more dangerous.

Seeking to resolve the North's nuclear issue through dialogue after strong pressure would be the most realistic approach. Against this backdrop, President Park's blind moves to provoke Kim and raise tensions on the peninsula do more harm than good.

No matter how badly North Korea behaves, it is necessary for Seoul to deal with Pyongyang delicately and elaborately from a long-term perspective. President Park, for her part, cannot be too careful in speaking about the North.
(END)

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