[OUTLOOK]Hasten inter-Korean summitThe 17th inter-Korean ministerial meeting was held from Dec. 13 to 16 on Jeju Island, summing up the year’s relationship between two Koreas. Seoul and Pyongyang agreed to respect each other’s ideology and systems, realize denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, host talks to relieve military tension and secure peace, pursue balanced and integrated development of their economies and collaborate on humanitarian projects. While a schedule for the military meeting was not determined, the delegations agreed to hold it as early as possible next year. In order to upgrade the inter-Korean relationship and promote economic cooperation projects, Seoul wants to ease military tension and establish peace on the Korean Peninsula as soon as possible.
At the general meeting of the ministerial talks on Dec. 14, Unification Minister Chung Dong-young said Jeju Island lacked three things ― beggars, thieves and gates, and he hoped the inter-Korean relationship would also lack three things ― confrontation, interruption and humanitarian suffering. In order to get over the instability of the inter-Korean relationship, we need to constantly systemize progress regardless of changes in the climate. Economic cooperation has already been considerably systemized. In order to pursue effective economic cooperation, Seoul and Pyongyang opened the Office of Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation in Kaesong in October. On Nov. 29, the South enacted laws on the development of the inter-Korean relationship, the first legislation to generally define the inter-Korean relationship and a symbol of the peaceful coexistence of the two Koreas. Despite progress in the inter-Korean relationship, the situation on the Korean Peninsula is still unstable because of friction between Pyongyang and Washington. North Korea and the United States have failed to resolve their hostile relationship since the Korean War and continue to distrust and confront each other. While Seoul and Pyongyang have agreed on coexistence, Washington and Pyongyang have not yet agreed to live and let live.
The inter-Korean relationship will focus on nuclear and humanitarian issues, summit meetings and the establishment of a peace system next year. The key to the resolution of nuclear tension has been handed to Pyongyang. The international community has promised a multilateral guarantee of security through the Sept. 19 joint statement, and now that the ball is in Pyongyang’s court, countries are observing developments. North Korea now has to make an initiative related to the resolution of nuclear tension, such as declaring its return to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Pyongyang has to pay attention to the fact that those willing to negotiate are losing influence in the United States since the adoption of the Sept. 19 joint statement. U.S. Ambassador to Korea Alexander Vershbow branded North Korea a “criminal regime,” and Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph has suggested additional economic and financial sanctions on the North Korean regime.
Another way for Pyongyang to break through the various obstacles is to reach an agreement regarding the establishment of a peaceful system on the Korean Peninsula through inter-Korean talks. As we confirmed in the first summit meeting, Washington and Tokyo would accelerate their approaches to Pyongyang once a structure of resolution is settled between the two related parties of the Korean Peninsula. The meeting between Unification Minister Chung and Kim Jong-il on June 17 was an indirect version of a summit meeting. In order to accelerate the implementation of the Sept. 19 joint statement, we need to hasten the inter-Korean summit meeting.
* The writer is a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Koh Yu-hwan