North unveils plan for own summit celebration

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North unveils plan for own summit celebration

The prospect of holding a joint event to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the first inter-Korean summit appeared on the brink of falling apart Tuesday after a preparatory body in North Korea said it would hold its own separate event.

According to a statement issued by the South’s preparatory body, the North Korean entity was quoted as saying that it had “little hope of producing a satisfactory outcome even if the two hold working-level talks [to arrange an event] if the South remains unchanged on its stance” on inter-Korean activities.

The North’s preparatory committee blamed the South Korean government’s decision to only support social and cultural inter-Korean activities, making clear its opposition to arranging political events.

The North’s notification on the event followed a long silence on repeated demands that it come to the negotiating table.

Signs of discord between Seoul and Pyongyang in regard to the joint event was evident last month, when the North criticized the South for backtracking on a previous agreement that the June 15 celebration be held in Seoul and the Aug. 15 Liberation Day event be held in Pyongyang.

Its claim against Seoul was likely indicative of its desire to host the commemoration for the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule due to the historical significance it carries.

But with Pyongyang’s most recent announcement, it appears unlikely that the two will get the opportunity to host a joint celebration commemorating the 2000 inter-Korean summit, which enabled economic cooperation between both sides.

The joint event, which commemorates the June 15 Declaration adopted at the time by former President Kim Dae-jung and late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, has not been held since 2008 amid ongoing tensions between both sides.

The 2000 summit meeting in Pyongyang between the two heads of state 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.

The North’s notification came as a disappointment for observers eyeing a thaw in frosty inter-Korean relations and hoping that the June 15 commemoration could work as a catalyst to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

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

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