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April 2002 issue of
World Press Review
(VOL. 49, No. 4)
World Press Review assistant editor
protests over President George W. Bushs branding North
Korea a part of an axis of evil marked the run-up
to Bushs first visit to Seoul in February. But, thanks
to battalions of Korean police in riot gear, when Bush arrived
on Feb. 19 he saw no such displays of hostility.
on his way to tour the Demilitarized Zone between North
and South Korea, Feb. 20, 2002 (Photo: AFP).
Since embarking on his tour of Asia, which includes stopovers
in Japan, South Korea, and China, Bush has softened the hard-line
tack toward North Korea that he took in his State of the Union
speech on Jan. 29. He has toned down the saber-rattling war
rhetoric and, while in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro
Koizumi, even assured the Diet that he seeks an Asia where
military force is not used to resolve political disputes.
But Bush defends the reasoning behind his original remarks,
saying that he is still deeply concerned about a closed
and not transparent regime that starves its people.
Qualifying the tough talk is designed to assuage anxieties and
anger, especially in South Korea. South Korean President Kim
Dae-jung has staked his legacy on his sunshine policy
of engaging the North, which earned him a Nobel Peace Prize
in 2000. But since his historic meeting with North Korean leader
Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang in June 2000, inter-Korean progress
has come to a standstill.
The majority of South Koreans would be pleased to see Bush back
away from his inflammatory labeling of their northern neighbor.
According to a recent opinion poll conducted by The Korea
Times, more than half of those surveyed (56.4 percent) said
that Bushs remarks about North Korea were inappropriate.
When asked who is responsible for escalating tension on the
Korean Peninsula, 37.8 percent placed the blame on the Bush
administration; 30.8 percent said the onus was on Kim Jong Il.
Hankyoreh Shinmun criticized Bush (Feb. 4) for what it
saw as careless and dangerous statements: [E]nsuring peace
on the peninsula may be an unimportant issue to him, but it
is a matter of life and death to us. The United States should
halt its unilateral and militaristic moves undermining efforts
for peace by North and South Korea. Whatever Bushs
initial fears about North Koreas weapons of mass destruction,
The Korea Herald assured (Feb. 19), North Korea
neither would nor could threaten the United States....Its continually
shrinking economy makes its seemingly awesome conventional forces
For its part, North Korea is still bristling from Bushs
harsh remarks. Various reports issuing from the Pyongyang Broadcasting
Station called Bush an imperialist war maniac and
a warmonger, and his visit to Seoul a junket
of war and anti-reunification.
Not one to be left out of a game of provocation and name-calling,
the Korean Central Television Station in Pyongyang issued its
own warning in response to being branded evil. We
have already expressed our position many times, a Feb.
14 report said. The world cannot exist without [North
Korea]. This is indeed our army and peoples ironclad will
and faith and our warning to the United States.