May 1, 2004｜Korean Peninsula
Deputy Director, The Export-Import Bank of Korea
On 22nd April, the news was released that a large-scale explosion had occurred at Ryongchon railway station in Pyonganbukto, close to Sinuiju, causing untold damage. On the 25th of the month, the Korean Central News Agency formally admitted that the accident had taken place and was actively willing to accept support from countries around the world. In addition, pictures of the site of the explosion and the people injured were released, giving us a vivid impression of the seriousness of this accident.
First of all, I would like to express my heartfelt sympathy for the many people in the DPRK who have to endure pain as a result of this tragedy. Leaving aside the country’s philosophy and regime, everyone feels sorrow for the misfortune of the people of the DPRK. In the ROK, public opinion, which had been divided as to the impeachment of the president and parliamentary elections, has united in support with regard to this accident. Despite differing opinions concerning the DPRK, with some taking a progressive stance while others adopt a more conservative position, everybody shares the same view with regard to helping their suffering compatriots in the DPRK.
Following this incident, the DPRK made an exceptionally swift announcement about the accident and expressed its willingness to accept support from the international community. In response to this, not only the ROK but also the governments of other countries, including Japan, China and the US, and international institutions, actively expressed their intention to provide support. The international community’s moves in response to the DPRK’s appeal for aid triggered the formation of humanitarian feeling of coexistence that transcends political tensions and conflict.
This accident will probably have a negative impact on the DPRK’s economy in the short term, but it is possible that it will have a positive effect in the medium to long term. The money needed for disaster relief and the paralysis of the transport network due to the damage to the railway will act as a drag on future economic recovery. Consequently, there is concern that ongoing economic reform measures may be scaled back.
However, from a medium- to long-term perspective, this accident may provide a good start. Depending on how this mishap can be overcome, it may yield positive results. If trust and cooperation with the international community can be increased through repairing the damage, it will be possible to achieve further progress in the future in cooperative relations with neighboring countries vis-à-vis other pending issues, such as a solution to the nuclear issue. I hope that the DPRK will not be discouraged by its current misfortunes and will adopt a more proactive response.
[Translated by ERINA]