2010, a turbulent year for S. Korea, DPRK

By Kim Junghyun
0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, December 20, 2010
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The year of 2010 witnessed a drastic turn for the worse in the relations between South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

The relations between the two sides, which once looked rosier, have fallen to the lowest possible ebb so far, and their immediate future looks bleak.

Inter-Korean relations torpedoed

The inter-Korean relations were expected to be in a good year at the beginning of the year 2010.

In his New Year's address, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak softened his usual hard-line stance against the DPRK, suggesting a standing body for inter-Korean dialogue be set up.

In an interview with BBC in January, Lee said that he is "ready " to sit down with DPRK leader Kim Jong Il, prompting rampant speculations over the perceived prospect of an inter-Korean summit, although the government was quick to play down Lee's remark.

Meanwhile, the DPRK reaffirmed its commitment to a nuclear-free Korean peninsula on the New Year's Day, raising hopes for an improved relationship in the new year.

A rare absence of bickering, however, only proved to be short lived. The sinking of a South Korean navy warship dealt a heavy blow to the much expected inter-Korean relations.

On March 26, the South Korean corvette Cheonan sank off the west coast of the Korean peninsula, killing 46 sailors. A Seoul- led multinational team of investigators later concluded the tragedy was caused by a torpedo attack of the DPRK.

Despite Pyongyang's repeated denial of its involvement in the incident and fresh threats of an "all-out war," bewildered yet enraged Seoul was quick to go into action. Pyongyang will "pay a price corresponding to its provocative acts," President Lee vowed.

As a response to the alleged torpedo attack, Seoul and Washington announced in May a slew of punitive measures against the DPRK, including suspension of almost all trade relations and exchanges with Pyongyang, ban on access of DPRK vessels to South Korean waters and massive joint naval drills.

The allies jointly staged a series of naval exercises designed to deter Pyongyang's further "provocation", including anti- submarine drills and maritime interdiction drills aimed at stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

South Korea's plan to retake its wartime operational control from the United States in 2012 has been put off till 2015, as the fear of losing the U.S. security umbrella prevailed in the wake of the sinking.

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