North and South Korea Are Supposed to Meet For an Honorary Date Next Week

The two Koreas are hoping to make contact on June 15 in commemorating a joint declaration signed by leaders of both countries on the same date in 2000.

The agreement, known as South-North Joint Declaration, was established by former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and former North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il after three days of talks in Pyongyang.

Both parties declared at the time:

1. The South and the North have agreed to resolve the question of reunification independently and through the joint efforts of the Korean people, who are the masters of the country.

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2. For the achievement of reunification, we have agreed that there is a common element in the South’s concept of a confederation and the North’s formula for a loose form of federation. The South and the North agreed to promote reunification in that direction.

3. The South and the North have agreed to promptly resolve humanitarian issues such as exchange visits by separated family members and relatives on the occasion of the August 15 National Liberation Day and the question of unswerving Communists serving prison sentences in the South.

4. The South and the North have agreed to consolidate mutual trust by promoting balanced development of the national economy through economic cooperation and by stimulating cooperation and exchanges in civic, cultural, sports, health, environmental and all other fields.

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5. The South and the North have agreed to hold a dialogue between relevant authorities in the near future to implement the above agreements expeditiously.

Since then, the declaration became an annual event where representatives of relevant sectors from both countries held exchanges in mutually-agreed safe spaces. The tradition, however, was suspended in 2008 until the term of former South Korean president Park Geun-hye, who halted nearly all civilian correspondence with the North after the latter’s fourth nuclear test last year, The Korea Times noted.

The tentative event on June 15 will thus be the first in nine years, and the first under the administration of newly-elected South Korean president Moon Jae-in. On Monday, the South Korean Committee for Implementing the June 15 Joint Statement, under permanent president Lee Chang-bok, announced the event’s location:

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“The North Korean committee suggested that the joint event commemorating the 17th anniversary of the June 15 Joint Statement be held in Pyongyang.”

South Korea’s Unification Ministry approved the committee’s request to meet with North Korea on May 28. It is expected to ask permission from Seoul this week.

A source told The Hankyoreh, however, that the South first asked the North to hold the meeting in the nearer Kaesong area for the convenience of its delegates, but was turned down due to “unresolved problems related to transportation and customs on the Gyeongui Line.” The said line is a railway that connects Seoul to Munsan, which lies close to the edge of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The South Korean committee added:

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“Since the event is being held in North Korea, we decided to respect North Korea’s opinion about the place and to accept their proposal of holding it in Pyongyang.”

As to who represents South Korea, the North can expect social and religious groups. “We’re planning for the delegation to North Korea to include around 100 people, including the leaders of civic and social organizations, the seven major religious groups, the Kim Dae-jung Peace Center and the Roh Moo-hyun Foundation. The delegation will be composed of trustworthy people that won’t worry the government,” Lee Chang-bok told The Hankyoreh last week.

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