Unification minister criticizes ex-liberal President Moon’s memoir

May 20, 2024

Unification Minister Kim Yung-ho criticized a memoir written by former liberal President Moon Jae-in on Monday, raising the need to distinguish North Korea’s intention not to use nuclear weapons from its nuclear capability in order to prevent a miscalculation of the security situation.

In the memoir published last week, Moon said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un voiced frustration over the global skepticism of his willingness for denuclearization, stressing that he had no intention to use nuclear weapons.

Moon, who held inter-Korean summits with the North’s leader in 2018, said he believes Kim Jong-un’s promise to abandon the country’s nuclear weapons.

In what would be the first criticism openly made by a senior government official, the unification minister said if South Korea relies only on North Korea’s “good faith,” its people and national security could be at risk.

“While ignoring North Korea’s (nuclear) capability, if we only focus on the North’s intentions, this could result in a miscalculation of the security situation,” Kim told a press conference.

His remarks came as North Korea has been focusing on advancing its nuclear and missile programs, including the launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) since the collapse of the Hanoi summit between Kim Jong-un and then U.S. President Donald Trump in 2019.

Seoul’s top point man on North Korea cited the example of the Munich Agreement clinched in 1938 among Nazi Germany, Britain, France and Italy, saying that World War II broke out as a result of Europe’s “appeasement” policy toward Adolf Hitler following the agreement.

The minister, meanwhile, said North Korea has changed the name of a key party organization in charge of inter-Korean affairs as part of a reshuffle, as its leader Kim has defined inter-Korean relations as those “between two states hostile to each other.”

“North Korea has yet to make an official announcement, but the North has changed the name of the United Front Department (UFD) into the WPK Central Committee Bureau 10,” Kim said, adding the new entity is carrying out psychological warfare functions.

The UFD had dealt with inter-Korean talks and North Korea’s policy toward South Korea, serving as a counterpart to Seoul’s unification ministry. At a year-end party plenary meeting, the North Korean leader ordered officials to disband agencies dealing with inter-Korean affairs.

“Kim Jong-un’s move to erase the legacy of his predecessors effectively points to the attempt to degrade (the late national founder) Kim Il-sung and (his late father) Kim Jong-il. We cannot rule out the possibility that this will cause ideological chaos internally in the North,” the minister said.

Kim also voiced the need to restore the suspended inter-Korean communication channel in a bid to deal with urgent humanitarian affairs and natural disaster responses.

Since April last year, North Korea has not responded to daily phone calls through an inter-Korean liaison line and military hotline, without specifying reasons.

“It is urgent to restore the communication channels that North Korea has unilaterally suspended in order to prevent damage from heavy rains during the monsoon season,” he said.

The minister said he and Julie Turner, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights, are scheduled to visit the island of Seonyu on Friday, where South Korean teenagers were abducted by the North in the 1970s.

Five South Korean high school students were kidnapped by North Korea on the Seonyu and Hong islands, off the country’s southwest coast, between 1977 and 1978.