Why Did the Criticism Take Four Days?

There has been much debate in South Korea over why it took North Korea four days to attack the National Intelligence Service (NIS)’s decision on Monday to release a transcript of the 2007 Inter-Korean Summit.

When the North did finally react, it was via a spokesman for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland (CPRF), who asserted in a statement to Chosun Central News Agency on the 27th that the transcript release made a “mockery of our supreme dignity” and was a “serious provocation against [North Korea]” adding, “Our military and people will absolutely never tolerate this rash behavior.”

However, in truth it is hard to find much of interest in the CPRF criticisms, which are pure boilerplate of a kind that has been heard a multitude of times this year alone. Equally, there is no reason why it should have taken four days for the criticisms to emerge, given that the North Korean state media has recently been attacking the NIS for other reasons.

The most likely reason, however, is that North Korea has its own history of exposing secrets. Pyongyang is not afraid of appearing hypocritical, of course, but having been guilty of exposing secret contacts with dialogue partners in the past, the United Front Department was probably aware of the limited value any criticism would have on the South Korean side. This may be why the criticisms were buried in a late night article.

For instance, during May 2011 the Lee Myung Bak administration pursued the possibility of an Inter-Korean summit in Beijing. However, North Korea took the veil off the secret talks. In June 2011, a representative from the National Defense Commission gave a detailed “description” of the talks to Chosun Central News Agency, asserting that the South had tried to pay off North Korea and “had begged for us to yield.”

There have been other explanations put forward, however. Of course, there will have been the need for North Korea to review Kim Jong Il’s remarks in the transcript to see whether or not they include anything strategically dangerous. This could explain part of the delay; however, in truth it is clear that there is nothing controversial in the transcript from North Korea’s perspective.