North Korea says it is considering what it calls a "total freeze" on
ties with South Korea. It is the latest sign of Pyongyang's
displeasure with the South's conservative president. VOA Seoul
Correspondent Kurt Achin reports.
South Korean officials are downplaying harsh North Korean commentary in Pyongyang's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper.
commentary refers to the administration of South Korean President Lee
Myung-bak as "the group of traitors," and accuses it of "reckless
confrontation" with the North. It goes on to warn of a "crucial
decision, including the total freeze of the North-South relations."
Lee has been a target of North Korean criticism for months. He has
taken a much firmer policy approach to North Korea than his two
predecessors - withholding South Korean aid and cash until there is
more progress on issues like getting rid of the North's nuclear
In recent weeks, South Korea has angered the North by
refusing to prevent human rights groups from launching leaflets
critical of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il into North Korean territory
Operations at a joint North-South tourism zone
have been on hold since North Korea's military shot a South Korean
civilian in July. A total freeze would likely also suspend a joint
industrial zone in the North Korean city of Kaesong, which employs more
than 30,000 North Koreans.
Economist Marcus Noland
specializes in North Korea for the Peterson Institute of International
Economics. He says it should be obvious that North Korea has much more
to lose by severing inter-Korean ties than the South does. But he says
in Pyongyang, things might not be so clear.
"The problem with North Korea is the government simply does not care about the general welfare of the population," said Noland.
says North Korea's government makes its decisions based on a "narrow set of ruthless political concerns" such as keeping
party elites and the military loyal.
"And so from the standpoint
of the North Korean government, yes - breaking off ties with South
Korea could have all sorts of adverse economic effects," he said. "But
that would largely not be felt by the people making that decision."
are no immediately apparent implications in Thursday's threat for
efforts to get rid of North Korea's nuclear weapons. The North resumed
the disabling of its main nuclear plant a few days ago, following a
compromise deal with the United States over nuclear inspections.