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South Korean conservatives call for North Korea to suspend military parade

By Jennie Oh
South Korean conservatives call for North Korea to suspend military parade
File image captured from footage aired on North Korea's state TV broadcaster on April 15, 2017, shows a military parade held in Pyongyang. File Photo by Yonhap News Agency/UPI

SEOUL, South Korea, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- South Korea's conservative forces urged the government to request North Korea to suspend a major military parade that will likely take place on Feb. 8, the day before the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics kick off.

This comes amid a partisan divide on whether the Pyeongchang Games will be turn out to be a "peaceful Olympics," as endorsed by the liberal government, or a "Pyongyang Olympics" that legitimizes the Kim Jong Un regime.

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Right-wing Liberty Korea Party spokesman Chang Je-won said Wednesday that the North is currently "preparing for war with a nuclear parade" on its Army Foundation Day and that its Olympic participation is a propaganda stunt for the regime.

Some 13,000 troops and 200 pieces of military equipment were detected near an airport in Pyongyang by South Korean authorities who believe the North is rehearsing for a massive parade to commemorate its Army Foundation Day.

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Chang criticized that the South Korean government "cannot utter a word to the North" on the matter when it had gone to the length of postponing the joint South Korea-United States military drills.

Seoul and Washington, earlier this month, decided to delay the annual springtime military drills between the two allied forces upon the request of South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

North Korea sees the joint exercises as a rehearsal for invasion and has been calling on the South to scrap them.

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"Being dragged around by the North like this... Is this peace?" he said, according to SBS.

To turn the sporting event into a 'Peaceful Olympics,' the government must demand "an immediate cancellation" of the military parade, LKP members said.

South Korea's most circulated newspaper Chosun Ilbo also remarked that Seoul officials appear to be showing a "submissive attitude" to the Pyongyang regime.

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It noted that a Unification Ministry spokesman evaded answering a question on whether the South would voice concerns to the North regarding its military parade.

The spokesman reportedly responded, "The government is making efforts to maintain the stable situation on the Korean peninsula."

When asked about North Korea's demand for punitive measures after South Korean conservative groups torched an image of Kim Jong Un and the North Korean flag, the ministry official said, "As an Olympic participant, the North must be treated with proper respect."

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On Tuesday, South Korea's presidential office rejected opposition lawmakers' claims that the Pyeongchang Olympics are turning into a North-dominated event.

"Labeling it as the Pyongyang Olympics is incomprehensible. We must gather our minds and wisdom together to achieve a 'peaceful Olympics,'" Presidential Spokesman Park Soo-hyun said.

As the two Koreas continue discussions and exchanges to arrange the North's Olympic participation, President Moon Jae-in has been urging his country to support the successful hosting of the sporting event and efforts to improve inter-Korean relations.

Moon has been optimistic that the ongoing talks could turn into a momentum for dialogue on denuclearization between Washington and Pyongyang.

However, public opinion on the matter remains divided. Some believe North's participation promotes the peaceful spirit of the Olympics, defusing military tension and encouraging inter-Korean exchanges.

Meanwhile, critics say Pyongyang is stringing Seoul along to reap economic benefits in the face of global sanctions or buy time to further develop its nuclear and missile program.

The formation of a single women's ice hockey team between the two Koreas has also sparked criticism that the sporting event has become politicized and that South Korean athletes are being deprived of their chance to compete.

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