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Sunday, 30 June, 2002, 04:47 GMT 05:47 UK
Naval clash angers South Korean press
Man with South Korean newspaper
South Korean papers reacted angrily to the incident
The naval exchange in which Pyongyang's ships sank a South Korean vessel prompts angry responses from the South's press.

The North's action is seen as a deliberate provocation, with many papers wondering why.


North's military provocation cannot be tolerated

Tong-a Ilbo

There's plenty of blame to go round, though, and the South's "sunshine policy" of engagement draws some flak.

"It is deplorable and worrisome that we could have lost so hopelessly," laments a military analyst in Choson Ilbo.

"This provocation seems to have been planned from the start," declares the comment in the strongly nationalistic daily.

The more moderate Tong-a Ilbo agrees, headlining an editorial "North's military provocation cannot be tolerated".

Betrayed

"We feel deeply betrayed by North Korea," it says, calling for an apology lest the North become "further isolated from the world community."

It goes on to question the conciliatory line pursued towards the North by President Kim Dae-jung's government.

"We cannot but doubt the reliability of the sunshine policy," it says.

Stop courtship of the North's Kim Jong-il regime and take firm action

Choson Ilbo

The Korea Times expects the incident to "put a damper" on cross-border engagement - one it says the president can hardly afford.

It speculates that the exchange may have "shattered Kim's strong belief in the wisdom of the sunshine policy".

"Few would fail to understand the reason if President Kim heaved a sigh of despair," the English-language paper concludes.

Choson Ilbo is less understanding, calling on the government to see the North for what it is.

"The Kim Dae-jung government has to stop its courtship of the North's Kim Jong-il regime and take firm action," says the paper, known for an anti-North Korean line.

Chungang Ilbo takes a similar line on the "premeditated act of provocation".

It warns that if the response is seen as soft so as to favour the engagement policy, "the government will be brought to grim judgment by the people."

Choson Ilbo can't help but wonder why the North took such a step, when it is the "greatest beneficiary" of the sunshine policy.

Bad timing

It is especially offended by the timing - coinciding with South Korea's last game at the World Cup finals.

Calling the hosting of the finals a "precious experience... we wouldn't give up for anything" it accuses the North of "trying to trample on this great sense of accomplishment and pride".


The military's posture of confrontation with the South holds sway over the North Korean leadership

Chungang Ilbo

It wonders if Pyongyang's leaders - who talk about putting Korean brethren first - are worth having dialogue with.

Tong-a Ilbo speculates that hardliners - including the leadership - may have been expressing discontent at the South's rising profile, further boosted by hosting the World Cup.

Meanwhile, the paper notes that "the North's image has been greatly damaged by continuous incidents involving North Korean escapees".

It also suggests that it was an "intentional demonstration" ahead of the reopening of talks with the United States.

Chungang Ilbo says that the World Cup "bound the Korean people into one" and that the North wanted to "let the world know that tensions still persist on the Korean peninsula".

It adds that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il must have known of the incident, showing that "the military's posture of confrontation with the South holds sway over the North Korean leadership".

Firm response

Therefore, Seoul must "resolutely call North Korea to account", the paper says.

The other papers also demand a firm response.

The clash will not lead to serious repercussions

Tour agency official

The Korea Times suggests that humanitarian assistance - chiefly food aid to the North's starving poor - might be halted.

Tong-a Ilbo calls for "strong and firm counter steps so as to keep North Korea from committing any further 'aggressive' acts".

Be that as it may, in the immediate aftermath things continued very much as usual:

A few hours after the incident, a cruise ship carrying Southern tourists set off for the North's Mount Kumgang resort.

According to The Korea Times, Hyundai Isan, which runs the joint project, consulted the authorities and let it sail.

"Learning from similar incidents in the past, we determine that the clash will not lead to serious repercussions," an official for the tour operator said.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

30 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
29 Jun 02 | Media reports
29 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
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