Honor summit scheduleNorth Korean leader Kim Jong-il suggested during the talks yesterday that President Roh Moo-hyun should stay one more day in Pyongyang. They planned to have lunch on Thursday, the day when the president was scheduled to return home. Kim suggested that they could have the lunch in a more leisurely way if he postponed his return to the following day. Even though there were no dramatic changes in the situation, Kim attempted to change the schedule of a meeting that was previously agreed on between the two leaders. That illustrated the characteristics of the North Korean regime, which are clearly different from South Korea’s.
A summit meeting is an event in which top leaders meet. It is not like a meeting of ordinary people. A day’s schedule is determined by the units of minutes or seconds. Every move must be made in a transparent manner because the leaders bear the responsibility of protecting their people and assets.
President Roh must have been planned to return to Seoul on Thursday to handle state affairs.
If the president stays in Pyongyang one more day, South Korea would be without its top leader in charge of national administration for that day.
It is unknown in what context Kim made the suggestion. It was probably a way to try to accomplish more at the summit meeting. But it is more probable that his suggestion had something to do with the Arirang Festival. On Wednesday evening, President Roh was scheduled to watch the gymnastics performance. But it started to rain in the afternoon so it became uncertain whether the performance would go on. Because Kim is deeply interested in the festival, he might have felt desperate. Even if he did, it was not prudent to make the suggestion. It is good that he withdrew his suggestion, saying they’ve had sufficient conversation.
Most of all, it was appropriate that the South Korean government refused Kim’s suggestion. If President Roh had accepted it, he would have faced criticism from the South Koreans.
This incident proved that there is a long way to go for inter-Korean relations to be developed in the truest sense. Because the government has a goal to establish inter-Korean summit meetings as regular events, it must improve its way of scheduling them.
Even if the North Korean regime’s special characteristics are taken into consideration, the South Korean government must stop its customary way of leaving matters for North Korea alone to decide.