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Choo receives flak after proposing envoy dispatch to North

South Korea’s ruling party chief on Monday proposed sending special envoys to both North Korea and the United States to alleviate heightened tensions following the communist regime’s recent nuclear test. Her idea, however, was immediately rejected by conservative lawmakers who said the liberal leader was being naive and lacking in understanding of the gravity of the situation.

While denouncing Pyongyang for Sunday’s nuclear test, the Democratic Party of Korea Chairwoman Rep. Choo Mi-ae reiterated that war should be prevented in any case and the government should pursue peaceful solutions and dialogue, in her policy speech at the National Assembly.

Rep. Choo Mi-ae on the podium delivers a speech during a parliamentary plenary session on Monday amid a boycott of lawmakers from the main opposition Liberty Korea Party. (Yonhap)
Rep. Choo Mi-ae on the podium delivers a speech during a parliamentary plenary session on Monday amid a boycott of lawmakers from the main opposition Liberty Korea Party. (Yonhap)

“South Korea should actively encourage and mediate dialogue between North Korea and the United States. At the same time we should also make utmost efforts to open cross-border talks with the North,” she said.

“To prepare for such a future, (the party) proposes sending special envoys to both North Korea and the United States to promote cross-border talks and broker dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang.”

To the North Korean state chief, Kim Jong-un, the party chief called for the young leader to accept the changing trend and show a different attitude to devote himself to peace on the peninsula.

“Why is Kim obsessed over developing the nuclear arms? He is following the strategy of balance of terror,” she said, referring to a nuclear deterrence strategy from the Cold War era. She added that Kim should now pursue a “balance of coexistence.”

Choo’s proposal, however, was met with immediate criticism by lawmakers across the aisle who say the liberal Moon Jae-in administration is being too soft and naive in its approach to the increasingly belligerent North.

“We are demanding appropriate sanctions (against the North), what is the leader of the ruling party saying?” Rep. Ha Tae-keung of the minor conservative Bareun Party shouted, in the middle of Choo’s speech. He, along with other lawmakers of his party, left the National Assembly hall in apparent protest.

In the plenary session that followed, the parliamentarians adopted a statement denouncing the recalcitrant regime for its sixth nuclear test.

“We call for North Korea to stop with all of its provocative actions that would only lead to the state’s isolation and, ultimately, destruction,” Rep. Kim Young-woo, chairman of the parliamentary committee for national security, read in a statement. “The South Korean government should also review its strategy toward the North and come up with ways to completely incapacitate the nuclear arms of the North.”

The 107-member main opposition Liberty Korea Party was absent, except for Rep. Kim Hyun-ah, following the party’s stance to boycott the regular plenary sessions. It has claimed the government is trying to control the state-run media.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)
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