Economic ties are not severed. Several hundred South Korean workers were allowed to travel to factories in the North after the incident and are still doing so to date. Managers from South Korea run about 100 small enterprises in the North Korean city of Kaesong, making products such as clothes and watches.
South Koreans have reacted with profound sadness to the deaths of the young sailors on March 26 but there are no visceral public displays of rage against Pyongyang. Border reunions of families divided by the cold war’s last frontier are held from time to time. Brothers and sisters divided since the 1950-1953 Korean war hold tearful reunions.
“We South Koreans are used to viewing North Koreans as poor fellow countrymen, or poor brothers and sisters whom we are obliged to help, overlooking wrongdoings”.
South Korean public opinion is more readily inflamed about incidents involving the US, now seen as a close strategic ally, than its neighbour. When a US armoured vehicle ran over and killed two schoolgirls in 2002, there were huge street protests and attacks against a US base. Gory murals in North Korea predominantly show American soldiers butchering North Koreans, rather than South Korean troops doing so. Despite the display of evidence of a corroded North Korean torpedo last week, theories abound that a US submarine sank the vessel. Young people and the political left, the most politically active members of Korean society, are generally sympathetic towards North Korea, despite the regime’s repressive nature.
Russia and China are also reacting calmly. The Jakarta post reported that President Dmitry Medvedev sent a group of experts to Seoul to study the international investigation’s findings. “Medvedev considers it a matter of principle to establish the reason for the sinking of the ship.”
The following day Kremlin online news continued: “At the moment, Russian experts are carefully and thoroughly examining materials on the outcomes of the investigation which were submitted to Russia by the South Korean side. Following the suggestion from South Korean authorities, the President of Russia decided to send to the Republic of Korea a group of highly qualified Russian specialists for a detailed on-the-spot review of the investigation results and the physical evidence that has been collected.”
On the 30th the Al-Jazeera headline was: China refuses to criticise N Korea. Wen Jiabao maintains China’s non-aligned position, “The urgent task now is to defuse the impact of the Cheonan incident, change the tense situation and avoid clashes,” he told a joint press conference at the end of the summit.
The New York Times reports that North Korea has said that it wants Kaesong – the inter-Korean industrial complex – to keep working and the South has indicated that it could reconsider its decision to revive psychological warfare against the North.
Though the South did resume its “Voice of Freedom” radio broadcasts, they do not directly criticize North Korean leaders and simply advertise the capitalist lifestyles of the South.
Civilisation 3000 has looked in vain for any sign of hope in reactions to yesterday’s Gazan incident.