Unification Minister to miss June 15 ceremony

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Unification Minister to miss June 15 ceremony

Amid increased tensions and a widened rift between two Koreas over the sinking of the Cheonan warship, the Ministry of Unification said yesterday that its minister will not attend today’s event to mark the 10th anniversary of the June 15 Joint Declaration.

The Kim Dae-jung Peace Center, a nonprofit organization formerly chaired by the late president, has held commemorative ceremonies to mark the 2000 accord between him and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il each year since 2003.

Unification Minister Hyun In-taek had been invited to this year’s event, but the ministry said he had been scheduled to attend a National Assembly hearing on foreign affairs and national security. Vice Minister Um Jong-sik will attend in his place.

It is the second year in a row that the unification minister is skipping the event. Hyun missed the ceremony last year, citing a conflict with a meeting on the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

“The government has not changed its stance that it respects the spirit of the June 15 Joint Declaration and hopes to discuss follow-up measures through inter-Korean dialogues,” said Chun Hae-sung, spokesman for the ministry.

But, he added, “if North Korea is willing to develop the inter-Korean relationship, it has to take measures such as apologizing for sinking the Cheonan and punishing those responsible.”

Some civic groups in the South have criticized the South Korean government for taking a too inflexible a stand against the North.

The Rev. Han Sang-ryeol, a progressive activist, traveled to Pyongyang on Saturday to attend the 10th anniversary ceremony held in the North.

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]
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