Deals might not hold upAt the inter-Korean prime minister talks that concluded yesterday, both sides managed to agree on 49 points. This shows that neither side had any significant differences about how to implement the agreements reached at last month’s inter-Korean summit.
Both sides agreed to launch fact-finding missions soon to look into ways for private ships from both countries to travel via a direct sea line to the North’s Haeju, in Hwanghae Province, and also to the mouth of the Han River for joint development purposes.
The establishment of a Haeju direct sea line, which crosses the Northern Limit Line, the current sea border of the two Koreas, has long been on the North’s wish list. The mouth of the Han River is an area rich with aggregate rock needed by the South. If a final agreement is reached, these projects will benefit both sides.
Providing Internet service and implementing simpler screening procedures for South Korean personnel entering the Kaesong Industrial Complex are also measures with significant meaning. They can be seen as a change in the North, which has long opposed them as a threat to their regime.
Nevertheless, there is a feeling that somehow these agreements are more show than substance. That is because there are no guarantees these agreements will be kept. First, there are no military guarantees to back up these agreements. How the establishment of a direct sea line will look in the end is very murky because it is directly linked to the Northern Limit Line, over which the militaries of both sides have clashed.
The joint usage of the area around the mouth of the Han River, or the opening of a cross-border train, are linked to military guarantees by the North which at this point are uncertain. Second, all of the agreements reached will be left for the next administration to handle.
The idea that the current administration, which only has several months left, is trying to steer projects that will be paid with taxpayers’ money is also not very appealing. The government should think whether there has ever been more of a lack of interest by the people for an inter-Korean summit as this time. The government needs to stop taking irrational steps just because an agreement is in place.
From now on, the government has to persuade the North that at least one of the agreements can be implemented. This means the North needs to come forward with military guarantees and show progress toward resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis.