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(EDITORIAL from the Korea Times on July 27)
Peace on peninsula
Saving Gaeseong key to improving inter-Korean ties

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice. On this day, we humbly honor the dead who sacrificed their lives to defend this nation.

   During the past six decades, South Korea has emerged as the world's 15th largest economy, riding on free democracy and export-oriented economic policies. North Korea, by contrast, has degenerated into one of the world’s poorest countries under an unprecedented autocratic political dynasty. Inter-Korean discrepancies in language and culture are increasingly striking, too.

   The Korean Peninsula is still in a quasi-state of war amid Pyongyang's continuous string of provocations, raising a desperate need to turn the current truce into a peaceful regime. No doubt, the premise for permanent peace on the peninsula is to persuade the North to give up nuclear weapons.

   It would be a mistake to discuss how to settle peace without addressing the North's nuclear arsenal because it would certainly send Pyongyang a wrong signal ― it can be treated as a nuclear-weapons state. The recalcitrant regime must know that its nukes won't ensure its safety but rather will deepen its isolation in the international community. Marking the passage of six decades after the end of the fratricidal war, we sincerely hope that North Korea will opt for a virtuous future ― scrapping nuclear weapons, massive economic aid and the settlement of a peaceful regime on the peninsula.

   But the reality is quite the opposite. Talks between the two Koreas to reopen their jointly-run industrial park broke down Thursday, when the rivals collided on how to prevent another shutdown of the complex. The two sides failed to set a date for another meeting, and Pyongyang even threatened to bring back the military units that were stationed at the North’s border city of Gaeseong before the factory zone was set up. Seoul’s Unification Ministry also threatened to "make a grave decision" unless Pyongyang offers a firm guarantee that it won’t close the complex unilaterally.

   Given the anticipated escalation of tension ahead of the joint South Korea-U.S. military exercise in August, the Gaeseong Industrial Complex could be headed for a permanent shutdown. It’s for this reason that the two Koreas need to exercise self-restraint.

   North Korea needs to keep in mind that President Park Geun-hye, who prioritizes the principle, won't accept its proposal if it is devoid of substantial measures to prevent another shutdown. Still, it's fortunate that the two sides have yet to declare their talks ruptured completely even as a glimmer of hope is dimming.

   Now it's time for Seoul and Pyongyang to regain calm and take time to have more meetings. It’s our hope that the reclusive country will change its attitude and accept Seoul’s demand in the next round of meetings, if these are held. What’s clear is that a breakthrough in the Gaeseong talks will serve as a catalyst for the two Koreas to improve their relations across the board. We hope that they will mark the 61st anniversary of the Korean War cease-fire next year in a completely different atmosphere.