North demands to host liberation event

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North demands to host liberation event


Pyongyang is demanding to host the 70th anniversary celebrations of the Korean Peninsula’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule on Aug. 15 this year, claiming that Seoul is trying to hold the event exclusively in the South despite previously agreeing that it would be held in the North.

“The North and South agreed last March that in order to bring a breakthrough in inter-Korean relations, a commemoration for the June 15 joint declaration be held in Seoul and the Aug. 15 liberation be held in Pyongyang,” said the North’s Committee for Implementing the June 15 Joint Declaration in a statement published by the North’s state-run media Korean Central News Agency on Saturday.

The Communist regime argued in the statement that the South was backtracking on an earlier agreement that stipulated the event would be held in the North by instead insisting that the commemoration for the Aug. 15 liberation be hosted in Seoul.

Pyongyang added that Seoul had ordered representatives of civic groups preparing for the two commemorations to persuade their North Korean counterparts during talks held in the Chinese northeastern city of Shenyang earlier this month that Pyongyang would hold the June 15 ceremony while Seoul hosted the liberation day event.

The North also claimed that by “making such pressure until the last moment of the meeting” Seoul prevented the representatives from the two sides from “reaching an agreement not only on the issue of the venue of the events but on other matters.”

Pyongyang’s claim on choosing the location for the two upcoming events illustrates its desire to host the commemoration for the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan’s 36-year-colonial rule, which lasted between 1910 and 1945, because of the historical significance it carries.

Its criticism of Seoul for what it called “urgent instructions” to hold the Aug. 15 liberation ceremony in the South, in violation of the previous joint agreement, dampens hope for a thaw in inter-Korean relations that arose after the South allowed its civic group representatives to meet North Korean officials to arrange meetings to plan the event earlier this month for the first time in five years.

The June 15 declaration refers to a set of agreements signed by South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-il 15 years ago in Pyongyang in the two Koreas’ first-ever summit.

The meeting paved the way for dramatic inter-Korean cooperation, resulting in the launch of the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex, in which more than 50,000 North Korean workers are now employed by over 120 South Korean firms north of the heavily fortified border.

While both events carry historical significance, experts agree that the 70th anniversary of independence has a larger meaning.

The South’s Unification Ministry had not responded to the North’s claim as of Sunday.

Meanwhile, the North’s Uriminzokkiri propaganda arm slammed the South Korean government Saturday for conducting what it says is a groundless smear campaign against the Pyongyang regime to spark anti-North sentiment in the South.

This was in reference to reports by the South’s spy agency on Wednesday that the North’s defense minister, Hyon Yong-chol, was executed by a firing squad late last month for being disrespectful to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“Park Geun-hye even joined the rhetoric that the North was carrying out a reign of terror to taint us while Saenuri Chairman Kim Moo-sung and other men from the party talk of instability in our regime,” said the propaganda outlet. It neither acknowledged nor denied the execution reports.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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