Joint commemoration in Pyongyang canceled

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Joint commemoration in Pyongyang canceled

The South-Korean Committee for Implementation of June 15 Joint Declaration cancelled holding the commemoration of the declaration in Pyongyang next week due to the North’s lack of cooperation, it said.

“The committee hereby announces the cancellation of the commemoration in Pyongyang,” the committee said in a press conference at the Franciscan Education Center in central Seoul on Friday. “It had high hopes that the joint commemoration would be realized for the first time in nine years, because the new administration talked of engaging the North on a people-to-people level.”

The South-Korean Committee for Implementation of June 15 Joint Declaration had, under the approval of the Ministry of Unification, sent a fax to its counterpart in the North on May 31. It proposed holding the joint commemoration in Kaesong. The committee in the North sent back a message on June 5, suggesting that the commemoration be held in Pyongyang. The South Korean committee accepted the proposal and waited for an invitation, but none came, according to the committee.

“Taking into consideration the physical and political situations at hand,” it said, “we decided to hold the commemoration event separately [in the North and in the South].”

“It would have been difficult to physically prepare the commemoration together within a week anyway, when North-South communications are so cut off,” said a member of the committee, who asked not to be named.

The committee also criticized the current administration for not fully supporting the project.

“But until today, just a few days before the date scheduled for the commemoration, the government had not made its position clear on whether or not it supports the event,” it said. “The fruition of such an event does not hinge on legal procedures but on whether or not the government will support it.”

The June 15th North-South Joint Declaration was adopted by then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2000 as a result of the first inter-Korean summit since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. The five-point declaration says Seoul and Pyongyang agreed to “solve the question of reunification independently by concerted efforts of the Korean nation,” to promote the “balanced development” through economic cooperation and “build mutual confidence by activating cooperation and exchanges in all fields.”

Pyongyang recently rejected a South Korean civic group’s offer to visit Pyongyang and provide humanitarian aid, as well as a call by South Korean lawmakers to hold a reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

Pyongyang also fired several short-range anti-ship cruise missiles Thursday morning off its eastern coast, which flew about 200 kilometers (124 miles) after peaking at an altitude of 2 kilometers before landing in the East Sea, according to local military officials. It was North Korea’s fifth missile test since President Moon Jae-in took office on May 10, and its 10th this year.

Moon said in the National Security Council Thursday that the South Korean government “will not retreat a single step.”

“The South Korean government maintains that it is important to follow the agreements reached in the June 15th North-South Joint Declaration and the Oct. 4 declaration,” said Lee Yoo-jin, deputy spokesperson of the Unification Ministry. “The current severing of ties between the North and the South is not a wise move for stability on the Korean peninsula.”

In the eight-point Oct. 4 declaration, signed in 2007 by then-South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korea’s Kim Jong-il, both sides agreed to achieve unification on their own initiative, cooperate to end military hostilities, recognizing the need to end the armistice and boost cooperation in various fields.

BY KIM ROK-HWAN AND ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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