North Korean detainees cannot be left unattended [현장메모]

“Is this missile now the result of this government (the Moon Jae-in administration) having unrequited love and submission to North Korea for the past five years?”

President Yoon Seok-yeol visited the ice rink in Seocho-gu, Seoul on February 17, during the height of the presidential campaign, and said this. One of the most talked-about stories by President Yoon while traveling across the country was the Moon Jae-in administration’s North Korea policy.

In terms of military and diplomacy, the Yun Seok-yeol administration’s North Korea policy was clearly different from that of the Moon administration. However, I am still not sure if there has been any significant difference from the previous administration regarding the issue of Korean detainees in North Korea.

By Kim Byung-gwan, Political Department Correspondent

Above all, it is unclear whether the Yun administration is prioritizing the detainee issue in its North Korea policy. When he asked the Ministry of Unification about the plan to repatriate the detainees, he said, “We can only make (plan) after the inter-Korean talks are held.” In response to the same question, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “Inquire at the Ministry of Unification, which is the responsible ministry.”

Not well understood. The Yun government was launched with the ‘resolving humanitarian issues between the two Koreas’ as a major national task. Of course, this will also include the problem of six North Korean detainees (Kim Jeong-wook, Kim Kuk-ki, Choi Chun-gil, and Ko Hyeon-cheol) who have not been confirmed alive or dead for nearly 10 years.

The United States was able to repatriate nine detainees from North Korea after a decade of mobilization from the White House, the National Intelligence Service and the State Department. However, our Ministry of Unification has revealed its ‘willingness to resolve the conditional solution’ on the premise of improving inter-Korean relations, while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs seems to be behind the scenes, saying that it is not under their jurisdiction.

This is why the presidential office should act as a ‘control tower’ for the detainee issue. In order to achieve the repatriation of the detainees, time should not be wasted in inter-Korean dialogues that occur in an instant. We watched as former President Moon Jae-in went all the way to Pyongyang and failed to repatriate his citizens. With the National Security Office as the center, the Ministry of Unification, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Intelligence Service and other related agencies should start preparing a plan for the repatriation of the detainees.

President Yoon also said this at the ice rink in Seocho-gu. “The first task of the state is to protect the lives and safety of its people, so the person who leads the state should think about this without sleeping at night.” Now is the time to put it into practice.

By Kim Byung-gwan, staff reporter

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