South marks Pyongyang summit without North

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South marks Pyongyang summit without North

South Korea on Thursday commemorated the first anniversary of the Sept. 19 inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang with a toned-down ceremony that testified to the ongoing cold spell in the relationship between the two Koreas. While originally scheduled to be held at Dorasan Station - the final point in South Korea’s railway with the North, this week’s outbreak of African swine fever on the border forced the Ministry of Unification to relocate the ceremony at the last minute on Wednesday to the Office of Inter-Korean Dialogue in central Seoul.

“In addition to the outbreak of African swine fever and a freeze in inter-Korean relations, this year we resolved to hold [the ceremony], albeit scaled down, to remind us of the significance of the Sept. 19 Pyongyang joint statement,” said a ministry official.

The one-sided nature of the celebration - North Korea did not send delegates to the event - spoke to the arrested reality of inter-Korean ties at the moment that belies the ambitious start to the Moon Jae-in administration’s engagement policy with Pyongyang over a year earlier.

Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul addressed Seoul’s palpable disappointment with the situation in his opening speech at Thursday’s ceremony, mentioning that the significance of the event’s original venue at Dorasan Station was meant to show how a unified Korean rail system could take passengers in South Korea through the North and into the great Eurasian mainland. “We will continue to effectively implement the Pyongyang joint statement to lead the way for the complete denuclearization and the settlement of a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula,” Kim said.

Connecting the two Koreas’ railways was one of the main pledges made in the joint declaration that came out of President Moon Jae-in’s and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s third summit in Pyongyang in September last year, among a host of other promises that included: moving forward with the North’s denuclearization process, reducing military hostilities on the demilitarized zone, pursuing a bid to jointly host the 2032 Summer Olympics and reopening the Kaesong Industrial Complex and Mount Kumgang tourism.

A year after the signing of this joint declaration, very little progress has been made to fulfill those pledges.

From President Moon Jae-in himself, there was no separate statement on Thursday in regard to the anniversary of the summit.

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