Moon urges no more ‘regressive’ politics amid controversy over alleged N. Korea power plant plan

February 1, 2021

President Moon Jae-in called Monday for an end to “regressive, old-fashioned” politics that bring about conflicts among South Korean people, as he stressed the need for bipartisan efforts to improve their livelihoods in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

He urged the political circles “not to instigate confrontation and regenerate politics” with an act, akin to a “relic of an old era,” that should be abandoned especially at a time when the people are facing difficulties from the coronavirus.

President Moon Jae-in speaks at a meeting with his senior secretaries at Cheong Wa Dae on Feb. 1, 2021. (Yonhap)
National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug (C) watches the floor leaders of the ruling Democratic Party and the main opposition People Power Party -- Kim Tae-nyeon and Joo Ho-young -- bumping fists during their meeting at his office in Seoul on Feb. 1, 2021. (Yonhap)

President Moon Jae-in speaks at a meeting with his senior secretaries at Cheong Wa Dae on Feb. 1, 2021. (Yonhap)

The president did not go into detail during his brief statement, open to pool reporters, at the outset of his weekly meeting with senior Cheong Wa Dae aides.

Observers construed it as alluding to rekindled political disputes over whether his liberal administration has, or had, pushed for a secret nuclear energy program for North Korea.

State prosecutors found that some South Korean energy ministry officials, indicted recently, had deleted a computer file suggesting a plan to help the North build a nuclear power plant. The document was reportedly drawn up not long after the first summit talks between Moon and the North’s leader Kim Jong-un at the truce village of Panmunjom on April 27, 2018.

Following a relevant television news report last week, Kim Chong-in, caretaker leader of the conservative main opposition People Power Party (PPP), openly described the alleged project as a “shocking act benefiting the enemy.”

The energy ministry said it was just a “working-level idea,” not a formal scheme, on how to promote inter-Korean ties.

Moon’s aides accused the PPP of launching a reckless political offensive with the ideologically sensitive issue.

It is an “irresponsible instigation to deceive the people,” a senior Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

The PPP, meanwhile, demanded a parliamentary probe into the suspicions.

Its floor leader Joo Ho-young said the government might have actually attempted to build a nuclear reactor for North Korea.

The ruling Democratic Party (DP) immediately rejected the demand, saying Cheong Wa Dae and related ministries have already come clean on related suspicions.

While it is impossible based on “common sense” to seek such a program for North Korea, with international sanctions in place against it, the opposition party is apparently taking issue with the matter for a political purpose ahead of the April 7 mayoral by-elections in Seoul and Busan, according to the DP’s floor leader Kim Tae-nyeon.

In a meeting with Joo and Kim, National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug pointed out that it is important to “confirm facts” quickly.

Excessive political disputes are not desirable, he added, voicing concern about the “serious” problem of the pandemic and its impact on the people’s livelihoods as well as a potential blow to inter-Korean relations.