Both Koreas agree upon joint celebratory eventsNorth and South Korea agreed to work toward joint events commemorating the 15th anniversary of a landmark declaration adopted in 2000 in the first inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang as well as the 70th anniversary of the peninsula’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule.
During a press briefing on Friday, the civic group All-Korean Committee for Implementation of June 15 Joint Declaration, said that the two sides had agreed to hold a combined event in Seoul from June 14 to 16 to mark the declaration.
The civic group held talks with their North Korean counterparts from Tuesday to Thursday in the Chinese city of Shenyang.
The joint declaration adopted in the summit between former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il opened an array of business and cultural exchanges between the two rivals. As a result, in 2004, Seoul and Pyongyang launched the Kaesong Joint Industrial Complex, at which more than 53,000 North Koreans are employed by 124 South Korean companies.
The civic group said it had tentatively agreed with representatives from Pyongyang that the event for the declaration will take place in Seoul because of the lack of time needed to host such a meeting in Pyongyang.
The group also said the two sides agreed to designate the time period from June 15 to Aug. 15 to work together to foster exchanges and cooperation in sports, arts and culture.
The group said a venue has not been decided upon for the event to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of Japanese colonial rule. Officials added that the committee hopes to hold a meeting once a week to settle remaining issues for the event, which will include determining the scope of activities.
“Given the historical magnitude of hosting a commemoration for Liberation Day on Aug. 15, we agreed to review all possible options [in the coming months],” said Lee Seong-hwan, a spokesman for the committee.
Many observers expect the events could help ease strained inter-Korean relations. The South Korean government allowed representatives from the civic group to meet with their North Korean counterparts for the first time in five years.
Seoul previously banned civic group officials from holding such talks after it imposed punitive sanctions in May 2010, following North Korea’s fatal attack two months earlier on the Cheonan warship, which killed 46 sailors.
Pyongyang has denied responsibility for the sinking and has refused to apologize for the incident.
The last time the two Koreas held a joint event was in 2008 at Mount Kumgang in the North.
However, a possible shift in tensions appeared noticeable after the Ministry of Unification approved a meeting between representatives from Seoul and Pyongyang.
“The timing will provide a good opportunity for the Park Geun-hye administration to manage a breakthrough in deadlocked inter-Korean relations,” said a senior presidential aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Pyongyang’s cooperative response is crucial.”
BY KANG JIN-KYU [firstname.lastname@example.org]