[EDITORIALS]To Revive the Joint Declaration

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[EDITORIALS]To Revive the Joint Declaration

We have mixed feelings as we greet the first anniversary of the June 15 Joint Declaration. The joy and emotion we had when the North and South Korea promised to end the history of national division and cold war and open a new chapter of progress by opening channels of reconciliation and cooperation have vanished.

Through the joint declaration, the North and the South agreed on five items that would break the ice between the two sides and build a bridge to co-prosperity. Based on the agreements, five rounds of ministerial level talks, including one defense ministers' meeting, were held, and there were two separated family reunions. North Korean long-term prisoners were sent home and the two sides agreed to reconnect the Kyongui rail line and concluded four economic cooperation agreements, including an investment guarantee pact. In order to help North Koreans, we sent some 500,000 tons of foods and 200,000 tons of fertilizer, and more than 8,000 people visited each other.

But the relationship between the two has come to a standstill after the Bush administration took office. Various inter-government talks and the establishment of a meeting place for separated families are still floating in the air. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's Seoul visit, which excited us so much, has been postponed many times. Whatever the reason is, we feel sorry for the situation in which the great progress we achieved with the North last year is collapsing. Although this seems to be the right time for the North and the South to take action to change the situation, we do not see any signs of it yet.

Both sides tend to blame each other or a third party. However, we should look back to see whether both sides approached the matter for the benefit and security of their regimes rather than the interests of the entire Korean people. Differences on the right of innocent passage that surfaced recently indicate that there are gray areas in the history of negotiations between both sides. We should reflect on whether this resulted in sowing suspicion and distrust and hindered progress between the two sides.

The North and the South should make decisions that will further develop the spirit of the June 15 agreement and benefit to both sides. First of all, both sides should maintain a transparent and reasonable attitude in their negotiations, while avoiding behind-the-scenes agreements. It is inevitable that the South must help the North; therefore the government must try hard to get public support by establishing definite and transparent North Korea policies.

Most of all, the attitude of the North is important. It should take concrete actions that will win the hearts of South Koreans. It should realize that it is impossible to expect cooperation from the South when it stops the dialogue abruptly, when North Korean vessels intrude into our territorial waters and when it gives permission to visit the north selectively as if it is doing visitors a favor.

Neither is Chairman Kim's visit to Seoul a "favor," but a promise he made to the people. Now that the dialogue between the United States and the North is reopened, it is time for the North to open its doors and resume North-South talks. The June 15 Joint Declaration should not follow in the footsteps of the first joint communique in 1972 or North-South Basic Agreement in 1992 which disappeared into history. The two sides should now try to implement the spirit of the Joint Declaration, ease military tensions and bring about a systemic peace through reconciliation and cooperation. That is why Chairman Kim's visit is necessary.
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