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South Korean Parties Argue Over North Korea’s Influence


Opposition Democratic United Party's presidential candidate Moon Jae-in.

The ruling and main opposition parties in South Korea are in a dispute over claims made by a former South Korea foreign minister.

They are arguing about a vote on North Korea’s human rights record at the United Nations 10 years ago.

The dispute involves a possible presidential candidate and might help shape the country’s 2017 election. Voters may base their choice on one major issue: how to deal with North Korea.

The ruling party proposes tough measures against that government. The opposition favors new efforts to negotiate with the country.

A new book is at the heart of the dispute. Former Foreign Minister Song Min-soon is the author.

Song’s book suggests that South Korea sought North Korea’s opinion before a 2007 vote at the United Nations. The measure called for condemning North Korea’s human rights record. In the end, South Korea abstained from the vote.

The book says South Korean politician Moon Jae-in was involved in the decision to avoid the vote. A former leader of the opposition Minjoo Party, Moon is a possible 2017 presidential candidate.

Dispute could influence next year’s presidential election

The dispute has gone to the National Assembly in Seoul. The opposition denies it had any communication with North Korea before the 2007 U.N. vote.

A Minjoo Party spokesman accused the ruling party of trying to smear Moon Jae-in.

“They are using all intimidating words such as ‘collusion,’ ‘approval’ and ‘pro-North,’” the spokesman said.

Moon has said former President Roh Moo-hyun’s administration made the decision to abstain. He said the South Korean government was increasing economic aid and exchanges to develop inter-Korean cooperation at the top.

The ruling Saenuri Party is calling for a task force to investigate if there was a plot to consult with North Korea before the 2007 vote.

April vote showed concern about North-South tensions

This is not the first time the Saenuri party has accused the opposition of working too closely with North Korea.

Saenuri officials accused the opposition of surrendering control of a sea border in 2007 negotiations with North Korea. The ruling party made the accusation before the elections in 2012.

Later, official documents were released that showed the sides agreed on a jointly-enforced fishing area and a peace zone. But, the accusation against the Minjoo Party helped the Saenuri Party look strong on North Korea.

The Saenuri Party won the presidential election.

In legislative elections this year, however, voters showed concern over hardline policies on North Korea. Opposition parties became the majority in the National Assembly in mid-April.

Critics of South Korean President Park Geun-hye say sanctions and U.N. resolutions have not made the country safer. They say the measures also have not stopped North Korean nuclear and missile tests.

However, more than 20 missile launches and nuclear tests in January and September make it unlikely that measures against North Korean will ease too much.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, (left center) and Secretary of State John Kerry (right center) speak to reporters in Washington D.C.
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, (left center) and Secretary of State John Kerry (right center) speak to reporters in Washington D.C.

Top South Korean and American diplomats and defense officials met Wednesday in Washington. They discussed the security commitment that the two countries share.

They also talked about the threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Afterwards, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se spoke to reporters.

Kerry said any use of nuclear weapons would be met “with an overwhelming and effective response.” He added that, “North Korea will never attain its goals through threats and intimidation.”

Hours later, North Korea carried out ballistic missile test from the northwestern city of Kusong. South Korean and U.S. officials said this test failed, as did an earlier launch Saturday.

Moon Chung-in is a North Korea expert and was an advisor to the late President Roh.

He says whoever becomes the opposition party presidential candidate will likely offer something different from current tensions. But he says that would combine some tough policies with engagement efforts.

I’m Mario Ritter.

Brian Padden reported this story for VOANews.com. Mario Ritter adapted his report for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

tough – adj. strong, hard, difficult

abstain – v. to not take part, to withhold

author – n. the person who writes a book, story, or article

smear – v. to try to make others think badly of a person, to unfairly try to harm someone’s reputation

intimidate – v. to make someone afraid

collusion – n. secret cooperation for dishonest purposes

consult – v. to discuss something to make a decision

hardline – adj. severe, tough

zone n. an area that is different from others for certain reasons

sanctions – n. measures taken to punish a country to force it to obey international laws, usually by limiting trade

engagement – n. being involved with

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