A Summit With No Topic?

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A Summit With No Topic?

On May 18, South and North Korea passed smoothly through the first gate by signing the working-level agreement to hold the summit. Now, South and North Korean government authorities will rush to hammer out the details following the working-level agreement. Fortunately, the working-level agreement helps to clarify the more ambiguous points from the April 8 South-North Agreement. Namely, those signing the agreement were clearly stated as the 'vice minister of Unification, the Republic of Korea,' and 'the advisor of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People's Assembly, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.' It is a significant advance from the April 8 South-North Agreement, where the 'vice chairman of the Korean Asia-Pacific Peace Committee' signed the related agreement.

In addition, the working-level agreement stated that "during the visit to Pyongyang, the historic meeting between President Kim Dae-jung and National Defense Committee Chairman Kim Jong-il will take place." Therefore, the misunderstanding surrounding the leaders of the two sides to participate in the summit was dispelled. There was some concern that North Korea might have Kim Yong-nam, the chairman of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People's Assembly host the summit.

However, there is still some uncertainty as to whether a summit between the nations's leaders will occur. Following the planned "historic meeting," North Korean leader Kim Il-sung could depart and leave the hosting of the summit to Kim Yong-song. North Korea must regulate and control any 'unforeseen actions,' which may weaken the meaning and significance of the summit.

The most important fundamental issue is what topics the two leaders will discuss at the summit. The recent working-level agreement vaguely defines the topics by "reaffirming the three principles of national unification as proclaimed in the historic July 4 South-North Joint Communique, with a view to advancing the reconciliation and unity, exchange and cooperation and peace and unification of the people." It failed to advance even one step from the April 8 South-North Agreement. If the topics are too inclusive, there will be a summit with no tangible outcomes. Therefore, topics will be discussed at the future preliminary talks while the two leaders will only shake hands with each other.

The government seems to have done its best to make feasible the discussion of the more important topics. North Korea did not step back from the inclusive topics, and the negotiations were finalized according to North Korea's conditions. If this continues, the summit could become a 'one-way traffic summit.' If such a situation occurs, 70 million Korean citizens will not have their expectations realized. The government must continue its efforts to clearly define the topics to be discussed. North Korea must show an honest and sincere attitude in response.

by Lee Su-ho

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