(ATTN: UPDATES with unification ministry's response in paras 10-15; ADDS photo)
By Chae Yun-hwan
SEOUL, Aug. 19 (Yonhap) -- The sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made clear that her regime will never accept the South Korean government's "audacious initiative" that seeks to help Pyongyang improve its economy in return for denuclearization steps, according to state media Friday.
Kim Yo-jong dismissed the Yoon Suk-yeol administration's plan as the "height of absurdity" and labeled it as nothing but a copy of the former conservative Lee Myung-bak government's approach, dubbed "Vision 3,000: Denuclearization and Opening," which ended in failure more than a decade ago. It was aimed at helping the North increase its per capita income to US$3,000 in a decade through comprehensive aid if it gives up its nuclear program and opens up its borders.
Kim also lambasted Yoon by name, saying "We don't like" him before evaluating Seoul's policy toward Pyongyang in the English-language statement, titled "Don't have an absurd dream" and carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
His scheme is" the height of absurdity as it is an impracticable one to create mulberry fields in the dark blue ocean," said Kim, who is known to be in charge of inter-Korean affairs as vice department director of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea.
"Though he may knock at the door with what large plan in the future as his 'bold plan' does not work, we make it clear that we will not sit face to face with him," she said in the lengthy tirade.
It came four days after Yoon used his Liberation Day speech to lay out some details of the plan, one of his key campaign pledges, aimed at helping the impoverished North develop its economy in the event that it takes denuclearization steps. Yoon's offers included a bold program of economic assistance, development and infrastructure investment.
"To think that the plan to barter 'economic cooperation' for our honor, nukes, is the great dream, hope and plan of Yoon, we came to realize that he is really simple and still childish," Kim added. "No one barters its destiny for corn cake."
She accused the South once again of continuing to send "dirty waste" to the North, apparently referring to Pyongyang's claim that the country's COVID-19 outbreak originated from anti-Pyongyang leaflets and other materials sent via large balloons across the border from activist groups in the South.
"Those villains seriously encroaching on our security circumstance by continuing to infiltrate dirty wastes into our territory talk about 'food supply' and 'medical assistance' to inhabitants in the north," she said. "Such deeds will only incite our people's surging hatred and wrath."
The South's unification ministry expressed "strong regret" over Kim's statement, which it said is laden with a "rude expression" distorting the purpose of the "audacious initiative" and criticizing Yoon.
"(The North) rather mentioned its intent on continuing its nuclear development," its deputy spokesperson, Lee Hyo-jung, said during a regular press briefing.
"Such an attitude by North Korea is not just threatening peace on the Korean Peninsula but also leading to the worsening of its international isolation and economic situation," she said and urged Pyongyang to reconsider its position on Seoul's proposal.
Unification Minister Kwon Young-se also voiced regret, speaking to lawmakers at the National Assembly.
"It is very regrettable that (Kim) distorted (the purpose of) the audacious initiative and criticized it with a rude and undignified expression," he said during a parliamentary session.
He added the government will continue efforts with patience to resume dialogue by persuading the North to do so and putting pressure on it if needed.
Kim, meanwhile, also derided the South Korean military's intelligence capabilities, taking issue with its announcement that the North fired two cruise missiles toward the Yellow Sea from the Onchon area, South Pyongan Province, on Wednesday.
The weapon test was carried out actually on the "Kumsong Bridge" in the other provincial area of Anju, she said
"I am curious to know why those always talking about the pursuit surveillance and full preparedness under the close cooperation between south Korea and U.S. could not indicate the launching time and place properly and why they do not open to the public data on the weapon system," she added.
In response, a Seoul defense official said there is no change in a related assessment by the South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities.
Kim's latest statement comes after she made a speech in a national meeting Wednesday last week that declared the country's victory over COVID-19, where she raised the need to take "deadly retaliatory" countermeasures over the leaflets sent from the South.