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Korea News: North-South Relations

Moon and Kim to Meet again in September; U.S. Ambassador says “Too early” to End the Korean War

The leaders of North and South Korea will meet for the third time, this time in Pyongyang in September, announced Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North Korean agency that deals with inter-Korean affairs. He announced the upcoming summit without offering a specific date and said, ”If the issues that were raised in the inter-Korea talks and individual meetings are not resolved, then unexpected problems could arise and all the items on the agenda could meet obstacles.”

The two Koreas agreed on the summit at their fourth high-level talks at Panmunjom on August 13 where they also agreed on the following:

  • Cooperation to connect and modernize their railways and highways;
  • Cooperation to prepare for the reunion of separated families this month and additional reunions in the future;
  • Cooperation on military talks; and
  • Continued discussion on inviting a North Korean cultural troupe to the South and holding a joint event on October 4 to commemorate the 2007 inter-Korean summit between former leaders Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Jong-un.

The two Koreas also restored their military communication line on August 15 to ease military tension.

On the same day as the announcement of the inter-Korean summit, U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris commented that it is “too early” to move toward the declaration of a formal end to the Korean War. “With regard to the end of war declaration, I think it’s in the early days. Yet, it’s too early for that even as we seek improvement in relations between the North and the South and between the North and the United States,” he said in a question-and-answer session after a lecture on the South Korea-U.S. alliance in Seoul.

Moon Stresses Inter-Korean Cooperation in Speech on National Liberation Day

In a speech marking National Liberation Day on August 15, President Moon Jae-in offered his vision for economic cooperation with North Korea, including joint economic zones along the countries’ border and a linked rail network. He said:

We must overcome division for our survival and prosperity. Even though political unification is still far away, building a single economic community first by settling peace and freely traveling back and forth between the two Koreas will become genuine liberation for us.

He added:

It is important to recognize that we are the protagonists in Korean Peninsula-related issues. Developments in inter-Korean relations are not the by-effects of progress in the relationship between the North and the United States. Rather, advancement in inter-Korean relations is the driving force behind denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Moon stressed improving inter-Korean relations as critical to a comprehensive vision for peace and security. His vision for denuclearization as part of a broader peace process seems to contradict Washington’s sole focus on North Korea’s “final and fully-verifiable denuclearization” (FFVD).

On the inter-Korean railway project, Moon said he hopes to break ground “within this year.” The project, which he referred to as “the beginning of mutual prosperity on the Korean Peninsula,” is currently blocked by UN/US sanctions against North Korea.

Conservative Liberty Korea Party Alone in Obstructing Inter-Korean Peace

Moon Jae-in invited the floor leaders of the five major political parties to the Blue House on August 16 and requested their cooperation on ratifying the Panmunjom Declaration in the National Assembly. “As you know, a South-North Korea summit will be held in Pyongyang next month, and I believe it would provide great support when I hold the summit in Pyongyang if the National Assembly ratifies the April 27 Panmunjom Declaration,” he said. He also offered to include parliamentary representatives on his scheduled trip to Pyongyang for inter-Korean parliamentary talks.

The floor leaders of the Democratic Party, Bareun Mirae Party, Party for Democracy and Peace, and the Justice Party all expressed support for President Moon’s initiative. The conservative Liberty Korea Party was alone in its refusal to cooperate.

Workers of North and South Korea Meet  

Workers of North and South Korea held a friendly football match at the Seoul World Cup Stadium on August 11. The games marked the first civilian exchange in the implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration signed at the inter-Korean summit on April 27. A large flag with a map of the Korean Peninsula covered the stands, and the crowd held placards that read, “We are one.”

The North Korean labor delegation also visited the grave of South Korean martyr and labor activist Jeon Tae-il on August 12.

Jeon Tae-il was a garment worker whose act of self-immolation in 1970 brought national attention to the plight of sweatshop workers at the height of S Korea’s export-oriented industrial development. His death sparked the country’s industrial labor movement that eventually gave rise to the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU).

N Korean labor delegation at grave of Jeon Tae-il (Photo: Newsis)

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