In an apparent act of blackmail, North Korea threatened South Korea on Thursday that they would release secret audio recordings from Inter-Korean talks reportedly held on May 9, 2011. The secret meeting, initiated by the South, was meant to lead to an agreement on talks for how to move forward after two deadly attacks on South Korea in 2010. North Korea's Korean Central News Agency reported that South Korean officials can be heard begging for summit meetings and even offering “envelopes of cash” as a bribe.
The two sides failed to reach agreement and the North refused to apologise or admit blame for sinking South Korean Navy ship, the Cheonan.
The South Korean blog- and Twittersphere erupted overnight with reactions to the shocking revelation. While some doubt the existence of a recording, others criticise the South Korean government for back-room dealing which is widely interpreted [ko] to be a desperate attempt by the administration to solve the Inter-Korean dispute before the presidential election next year. The government has denied the allegations.
Is there a recording?
South Korea's Unification Ministry (@uni_kr) tweeted on June 9:
@uni_kr: [브리핑] 우리 정부의 기본 입장은 북한의 주장에 대해 일일이 대응하지 않겠다는 것입니다. 북한이 주장하는 대로 녹음이 있다면, 더 이상 사실이나 상황을 왜곡하지 말고 모든 내용을 있는 그대로 공개할 것을 촉구합니다.
[Briefing] The government's principle is not to respond to every single assertion by the North. If there were a recorded conversation as the North claims, then, we urge them to reveal it without further distorting the content or situation.
Park Dae-seung (@greatwin52) a former TV producer and currently a small business owner, tweeted [ko]:
@greatwin52: 며칠 전 외교관련해 오래 종사한 외교전문가가 이런경우 꼭 녹취하는게 관례라는 글을 읽었는데 우리 정부는 녹취한 일이 없고 북한이 그걸 가지고 있다면 몰래 불법녹음한 것이라고 주장한다.뭐 두려운게 있는걸까?
Several days earlier, I read an article quoting a diplomatic expert that it is customary to record such meetings. But our government claims they did not record it and if North Korea has a recording, it is an illegally taped one. Does the North fear anything at all?
Twitter user AniRush (@AniRush) who works in the animation production field tweeted:
@AniRish: 북한은 녹취록이 있다고 하고, 정부에서는 그런게 있으면 공개하라고 했으니. 둘 중 하나는 거짓을 말하고 있는게 분명하네요. 생각하기 복잡하니 이번에는 서로 증거를 내놓고 이야기 하기를.
The North say they have a taped talk, while the South Korean government said that if there is such a thing, then reveal it. Apparently, one of them must be lying. Since it is a complicated matter, the two sides need to bring hard evidence and discuss.
Yoo Jae-Beom (@Tkfkdtkfkd0824) tweeted:
@Tkfkdtkfkd0824: 원래 비밀 접촉이든 공개 접촉이든 남북 양측 다 서로 녹취를 한다고 하지요?? 남북 어느쪽의 얘기가 맞던 녹취록을 먼저 오픈하는 쪽이 진실이라고 봅니다.
It is general knowledge; both sides record the talk whether it is a closed or open meeting. I believe that the one who first discloses the recorded communication is speaking the truth.
Hun Joo (@aura222222) speculated:
@aura222222: 북한이 회담내용을 깐다고 협박하는군요. 실제로 돈이 오가긴 오갔나 봐요. 정부서는 돈봉투가 아니라 숙식료라고 해명하는걸 봐선[…]
The North threatens to divulge the contents of the meeting. So, there must have been financial transactions (between the two Koreas) after all -considering that the South Korean government tried to explain that the envelopes of cash was merely for accommodation fees (during the meeting).
Fierce accusations against North Korea
As the North made an unprecedentedly aggressive move, many South Koreans sided with the government. Repeating the Unification Ministry's statement, lots of people tweeted “Go ahead, reveal it.” South Korea's influential blogger and citizen journalist Media Mongu (@mediamongu) tweeted:
@mediamongu: 우리 정부는 북한의 사과를 촉구하기 위해 비밀접촉했다고 했다. 북한 네놈들 말이 사실이라면 녹취록 공개해 봐라.
Our government said they had secret meetings with the North to demand an apology from them. You, North Koreans, if your words are true, then go ahead and reveal it.
On Twitter, Crewords(@crewords) said:
@crewords: 정부, 北 녹취록 공개 위협에 “황당, 비정상적” http://bit.ly/iXc8KI 애초에 북한에 상식을 기대했다는 것이 넌센스[…]
The South Korean government called the North Korean threat a “baffling and irrational” move. It is non-sensical to expect something rational from North Korea in the first place.
Twitterer Anna (@annauna) tweeted [ko]:
헤어진 남녀 관계에서 나쁜 것들이 신상을 까발리고 동영상 찍은것으로 협박한다고 하지..지금 현재 북한 것들이 녹취한 것을 언론에 공개한다고 협박하는것 보면 영원히 북한 것들하고 상종하면 안된다.
In the breakup of a relationship, some bad people would threaten their former lover with revealing a video tape and their identity. North Korea is acting the same way, by blackmailing the South with revealing the taped talk to the media. We should never engage in any kind of relations with these North Koreans, never ever.
Criticism heaped on the administration
Kim Kyung-suk (@MKTKIM), an account executive in a public relations agency tweeted:
@MKTKIM: 북한이 녹취록을 까겠다는것은 오만한 태도이다. 그런데 이런 상대에게 책을 잡혀 개끌리듯 끌려가는 이명박정부의 무능이 답답하다. 정도를 안가고 편법으로 일관하니 이런일이 생기는 것.
North Korea announcing to expose the taped talk: it is an arrogant attitude. It is hard to watch the Lee Myung-bak administration being dragged around like a dog after he gave them the leash. The government's tendency to take a short cut instead of walking the proper route has created this situation.
Kang Myung-soo (@namoogrimm) tweeted:
만일 만일 북한 주장이 사실이라면 다음 수순은 ‘참석자들이 임의로한 행동이다 돈도 알아서 마련했다'가 되는 것인가? 설마 부디 사실이 아니길…
: If the North's account were true, then what will be South Korea's next move? Will the South Korean government make excuses such as ‘the (secret deal) was voluntarily made by individual participants’ or ‘the (South Korean) negotiators have gathered money on privately (and given it to the North)'? I expect the North's version to be a lie.
Cartoon Describing Kim Jong-il's Different Attitudes toward South Korea and China, Posted on Poralsjuns Blog, Author Unidentified
The North's motive
Oh Soo-Jin (@Bryant0602) tweeted:
@Bryant0602: 북한의 녹취록 공개 협박 의도가 뭘까요? 우리 정부 옥죄기? 남남갈등? 다 맞는말이지만 내생각엔 중국의 남북대화요구에 대한 항명인 듯. 막장까지 가서 남북대화 절대불가함을 천명하는거죠. 암튼 미래 정부와 북한간 진정한 대화는 힘들 듯. 무신의의 녹취록공개라니.
What is North Korea's motive in blackmailing the South to expose the taped talk? To pressure our government? To incite internal conflict in South Korea? All this could be possible. But my guess is that the North wants to express disobedience to China's order to resume Inter-Korean talks. The North wants to drive the situation to the edge in order to stress that it is absolutely unacceptable to just have the Inter-Korean dialogue. Well, once the North broke trust by revealing the recordings, it will be hard to resume any kind of Inter-Korean dialogue even under a future (South Korean) administration.