Brotherhood key aspect of improved relationsIn dealing with Pyongyang, former South Korean President Kim Young-sam highlighted brotherhood, saying in his inaugural speech in 1993 that “Not a single ally could come before a country that shares the same ethnicity” as South Korea.
It was a key message to the North that Seoul wanted to mend ties.
Then came an announcement later that year that the North would withdraw from the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons treaty. In March 1994, Pyongyang vowed to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire.”
Soured relations between Seoul and Pyeongyang briefly thawed in June 1994 when former U.S. President Jimmy Carter paid a visit to the communist state and later told the South Korean government that Kim Il Sung proposed a summit with his southern counterpart. The summit was to be held from July 25 to 27 in Pyongyang.
However, Kim Il Sung’s unexpectedly died on July 8.
“I was deeply shocked by his death,” Kim Young-sam wrote in his memoir years later. “I had mixed emotions. It was the death of a dictator who was ultimately responsible for separating the two countries for 50 years, and then there was the historical summit set to take place just two weeks afterward …”
The summit was canceled and inter-Korean relations remained at a low until October 1994, when Washington and Pyongyang signed an agreement that promised the construction of two light-water nuclear reactors in the North in return for Pyongyang’s commitment to freeze its nuclear program.
Vowing to ease tensions with the North, Kim Young-sam responded to the North’s critical food crisis the following year in 1995 by providing 150,000 tons of free rice.
“I think it was a groundbreaking project,” Kim Young-sam later wrote in his memoir, adding that in the long run, the humanitarian gesture was “to be remembered in national
history for feeding our starving brothers.”
BY YOO JEE-HYE, KIM KYUNG-HEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]