Despite North Korea’s rapid acceleration of its ballistic missile testing program, South Korea is ready to give aid and participate in inter-Korean business that will likely empower and embolden North Korea to continue its military advancement.
Moon Jae-in’s administration is reviewing UN sanctions policy to determine if it can legally restart work at the Kaesong Industrial complex and resume inter-Korean tours to North Korea’s Mount Kumgang. Work at Kaesong was shutdown in February 2016 by the Park Geun-hye administration in response to a North Korean nuclear test and a ballistic missile test guised as an earth observation satellite launch. Tours to Mount Kumgang were suspended in July 2008 when a South Korean tourist was shot dead by a North Korean soldier. These programs were discontinued by South Korea in protest of North Korean aggression. To reopen these programs now, while North Korea is expanding military testing and giving no indication of reversing course, sends the wrong signal. Reopening these programs without demanding change condones North Korea’s actions. Resuming the programs would also provide North Korea with additional monetary resources that will help fund its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile research.
Moon’s administration is granting more South Korean aid organizations permission to offer humanitarian assistance to North Korea. Aid was slowed during Park Geun-hye’s administration in response to the North’s nuclear and missile tests. Aid organizations are compelled to provide resources like corn seed, fertilizer, and disease prevention kits because the majority of North Korean citizens lack access to them. North Korea’s government funnels money to ruling class families and into military spending, leaving little for the basic necessities of its people. Although donating food and resources may seem like the right thing to do, it actually enables North Korea to prolong the practice of diverting money to the military and into the pockets of corrupt officials instead of giving it to the people that need it most. Offering increased aid now, without requiring North Korea to change its behavior in any way, encourages and enables the North to continue developing missiles and nuclear weapons at an accelerated pace.
Moon Jae-in should stop rewarding bad behavior by rejecting the resumption of inter-Korean business and humanitarian assistance until North Korea discontinues missile and nuclear weapons testing.
A version of this article appears on the author’s eponymous website Ryan J. Koehler with the headline: Moon Jae-in is rewarding North Korea for bad behavior.