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  • 2000.10.31
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What is to be done after the South-North summit meeting

Dept. of International Relations at Dongkuk University

Prof. Lee Chul-ki


The Korean people have waited for 55 years to fly directly to Pyongyang, which took only one hour and two minutes. The summit meeting is an historic incident since the division of the peninsula, thus the meeting makes all the people in the peninsula excited. Regretful sighing spreads all over the peninsula; We should have met much earlier!

The Korean peninsula is the only place in the world where the legacy of the Cold War is still dominant power. The summit meeting established the ground on which the Cold War is ended and asked the question of how to establish the period of peace and cooperation. Even though there were some sceptical opinions on the summit meeting, the meeting itself cannot be estimated too highly. In particular, the South-North Joint Declaration with five articles is one of the most significant results of the meeting which should importantly be taken into account. Two articles out of five focus on the reunification of the two Koreas. This explicitly illustrates that the two Koreas have to prepare for reunification right now after some decades of economic cooperations and exchanges. In this respect, both parties of the South and the North won in this historical summit meeting.

However, the meeting has raised many tasks to be fulfilled, otherwise the historic Declaration will turn out to be just paper.

I. Significance and Achievement of the Meeting
1) The End of the Cold War in the Korean Peninsula


It is a bit early to evaluate the summit meeting itself, however, it is evident that the summit declared the end of the Cold War in the Korean peninsula. The summit meeting should be recorded as the turning point in Korean history: The period of Cold War by the South and the North was ended and a new horizon of peace was opened up on the 15th of June 2000 in the peninsula. It should be regarded as the very basis for peace and reunification of the Korean peninsula, even though how to dissolve the remaining structures and machinary of the Cold War, for instance, how to change the Armistice Agreement to a Peace Agreement, and the issue of military tension between the two and the stay of the United States Armed Forces, were not discussed in detail.

What aspects should be noted in the summit meeting particularly for the dissolution of the Cold War? First, the South and the North officially acknowledged each other? political entity, and promised to respect each other. This is expected to enormously lessen the military tension in Korea. For the first time, the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People? Republic of Korea were officially acknowledged and named in the Joint Declaration of South and North Korea on the 15th of June. Second, both Koreas agreed in the summit meeting to avoid any war, which would result in the destruction of both Koreas. The president of the Republic of Korea in command of all South Korean Armed Forces was inspected by the People? Army of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. The president called North Korea the Democratic People? Republic of Korea in the cabinet meeting on the 16th of June. It is also notable that all the propaganda broadcasting near the DMZ libelling each other stopped just after the Joint Declaration. Third, the relationships between North Korea and Japan and North Korea and the United States were strongly encouraged to be improved in the meeting. This eventually contributes a lot to the dissolution of the Cold War in the peninsula. Fourth, comparatively the influence of China and Russia will be strengthened in the peninsula, which will bring about the multi-states mutual relationships in the North East Asia region. Then it will become more difficult for the United States to intervene militarily in this region.

2) The Beginning of Co-Existence with Mutual Prosperity

Both Koreas have opened up the period of Co-operative Mutual Prosperity removing Hostile Co-Existence . The tension and struggle between the two had frequently been manipulated by the two governments in order for them to consolidate their position domestically in the past.

However, the summit meeting reversed the relationship between the two to mutual prosperity in the following aspects. First, each Korea officially declared that it would acknowledge the other party as a partner for dialogue and negotiation. Kim Jong-il accepted the long endeavours of Kim Dae-jung’s the Sunshine Project. Second, both Koreas agreed to remove, so called, wasting competition of system and military aggression. That is, the relationship comes to be based on co-operation for mutual interests escaping from that of zero-sum. Third, as is explicitly mentioned in the Declaration both parties tries to do their best to develop the balanced national economy through economic co-operation , the economic exchange will be accelerated in the governmental level.

3) Both Koreas take Initiative on the Issues in the Peninsula

North Korea and the United States have played the leading role in major issues concerning the peninsula excluding South Korea through the High-Level meeting of the two countries. It implies that the talks and negotiations concerning the peninsula have been controlled by the American government. However, it should be noted that the two Koreas have come to play a leading role together on the issues since the summit meeting.

First, we witnessed the change of North Korea? diplomatic strategies. In the past, North Korea had concentrated all its efforts exclusively on the talks with the United States. However, it seems that North Korea chose to start a direct dialogue and discussion with South Korean government. The reason why North Korea changed its diplomatic strategy drastically is that they failed to achieve the expected result from the Agreement between North Korea and the U. S. in 1994. According to the Agreement, the United States lifts the economic embargo against North Korea concerning finance, investment, and trade , but it has not materialised yet. Instead, the U. S. has taken hard line policies against North Korea. As a result, North Korean authorities chose to change their dialogue or negotiation partner from the U. S. to Kim Dae-jung’s government. North Korea cannot find out any other alternative.

Second, both Koreas agreed that they would resolve the peninsula issue independently. The principle of independence has been repeatedly confirmed between the Koreas whenever they met together, for instance, the 7. 4 Joint Communique in 1972, and the 4. 30 Agreement before the summit meeting. In the 6. 15 Joint Declaration, it is clearly declared that we achieve reunification independently .

Third, it was also agreed in the summit meeting that the dialogue between the two governments and the summits would be held regularly. It also implies that both Koreas would take initiatives on the peninsula issues including the reunification. Moreover, it is strongly expected that Kim Jong-il will visit South Korea in the near future.

II. The Joint Declaration on the 15th of June
1. On the Method and Principle of Reunification


The Joint Declaration on the 15th of June manifests the method and principle of the reunification of Korea. First of all, it states in the first article that ?e have agreed to resolve the question of reunification independently and through the joint efforts of the Korean people who are the masters of the country? The principle of Independence first manifested in the 7. 4 Joint Communique is reassured. However, it is not clearly defined whether independently means merely the subject of reunification or it includes anti-foreign countries. At the moment, it depends on interpretation.

However, the principle reflects the fact that the division of Korea was forced by foreign countries, and in fact each Korea had tried to exclude the other party in its policies in the past. Thus the principle might well be interpreted that both South and North would play a key role in resolving problems in the Korean peninsula. Even though independence cannot be understood as anti-foreign countries or isolationism, it should be stressed that both Koreas will play a key role in the peninsula. So the summit meeting raised new tasks for the Korean governments coping with the changing situation in the North-East Asian Region, too.

In the second article, two leaders acknowledged that there is ? common element in the South’s proposal for a confederation and the North’s proposal for a loose form of federation as the formulae for achieving reunification, the South and the North agreed to promote reunification in that direction? It seems that a loose form of federation was suggested first by the late Kim Il-sung in 1994. However, it is not clearly demonstrated whether a confederation of South Korea is the unification of three stages suggested by Kim Dae-jung or the reunification of national community which is still the official reunification policy of South Korean government.

Even though some uncertainties can be traced in the agreement, its significance cannot be ignored. First, it should be noted that the assimilating reunification policy of the South and the socialist policy of the North were officially abolished by two summits. Second, the leaders agreed that reunification should be achieved through peaceful and gradual dialogue, acknowledging the necessary stage of one nation and two states in the process. That is to say, reunification will be achieved through gradual, peaceful, dialoguing efforts of both Koreas. This is expected to end the dissipating debates and confrontations between the South and the North concerning reunification.

2. Mutual Trust through Humanitarian Efforts

It is manifested in the South-North Joint Declaration that both parties ?ave agreed to promptly resolve humanitarian issues such as exchange visits by separated family members and relatives . . . the question of unswerving Communists who have been given long prison sentences in the South? The declaration of humanitarian efforts is strongly expected to restore mutual trust and respect between the two parties. The humanitarian efforts will also help both governments to persuade their people to agree with their reunification policies.

Particularly, the North will come to firmly trust the South when the unswerving communists are sent to North Korea. Thus, it is notable that the question of the unswerving communists was discussed in terms of humanitarian issues by the leaders. On the 15th of August, the world witnessed the dramatic reunion of separated family members, and at the beginning of September, the communists were sent to North Korea through Panmunjom. However, there are a lot of humanitarian issues left to be resolved; identification of separated members, exchange of letters between them, and the designation of meeting place for them.

3. Basis for exchange and Co-operation

Article 4 of the Joint Declaration deals with the issue of economic exchange and co-operation. First of all, it says that the South and the North have agreed to consolidate mutual trust by promoting balanced development of the national economy through economic cooperation and by stimulating cooperation and exchanges. The significance of this article is as follows. First, the South and the North have agreed to eventually create one economic community through economic exchange and cooperation.

Second, the two parties have agreed to reduce the economic gap through economic cooperation which, in the long run, will decrease the cost of reunification. Third, the official dialogue partners, which used to be at civilian level, will be moved upwards to governmental level. Fourth, it also shows that the South will invest capital in the North for the construction of port, communication, electricity, road and so on. Apart from economic exchange and cooperation, it is also expected that a lot of other exchanges will be activated such as, culture, sports, environment and health.

4. Governmental Dialogue and Regular Summit Meeting

It is clearly agreed in the fifth article of the Joint Declaration that the South and the North will hold a dialogue between relevant authorities in the near future to implement the above agreement expeditiously. Furthermore it is reported that Kim Jong-il, the chairman of the National Defence Commission of the North, promised to visit Seoul in the near future. That will set up the restoration of governmental dialogue and its regularisation as well as regular summit meeting is strongly expected. The most important point is that the strong will to realize the South-North Joint Declaration is clearly manifested in this article.

However, it is to be regretted that how to set up a peace system has not been included in the Joint Declaration yet. This might be the most crucial issue to be discussed and to be agreed upon by the summits and has attracted world-wide attention even before the summit meeting. This issue should be discussed later.

III. The Future Tasks and Obstacles
1. The Tasks

First of all, the issue of the U.S. military forces in the peninsula should be agreed or settled by the two Koreas in order to set up a peace system in Korea. This issue is inevitably related to military-security relations in North-East Asia. If North Korea thinks that it is threatened by the U.S. forces, all the co-operation and dialogue between the two will hardly produce any fruitful result.

The second task to be mentioned is that the political system of North Korea should be acknowledged internationally as well as by South Korea. One of the most important things in the South-North talk is to secure peaceful survival of the North and to support it. For this the hostile relationship between the North and Japan, the North and the U.S. should be changed to normal diplomatic relationship. This enables the North to enter into international society and also contributes to the security and peace in the peninsula. It is strongly demanded that the U.S. should lift the economic embargo against North Korea. It was already agreed in the U.S.-North Korea Agreement in 1994, even though the realisation has been delayed.

From the viewpoint of North Korea, the security dilemma should be resolved. If not, North Korea cannot but continue military confrontation for the sake of survival. It is assumed that North Korean nuclear issue cannot be solved as long as North Korea has the security dilemma. And this should be developed into the reduction of armaments, which is a very concrete and efficient measure for peace in Korea. It might take some time for the South and North to meet for discussion on the reduction, but they should start the discussion of the general outline for disarmament in order to reduce the military confrontation.

In order for this, such actions as follows have to be taken between the two parties. First, the dialogue for disarmament should be commenced by agreeing A Peace Declaration by the two Koreas. Second, the dialogue for the settlement of the border in the Yellow Sea and the East Sea should be started as soon as possible in order to avoid military collisions by chance. Both parties have already agreed to start a dialogue for the border. Third, the South-North Joint Military Committee should be reassembled in order to realise the agreements concerning disarmament. And lastly, the Demilitarised Zone, where heavy weapons are placed, should be demilitarised and then it should be changed to the Peace Zone.

2. The Anticipated Obstacles

Some obstacles in the settlement of peace in the peninsula are anticipated. First of all, the opposition of the right wing groups in South Korea to the enhancement of South-North dialogues is easily anticipated. These social groups have secured their privilege for some decades manipulating the anti-North sentiments of South Koreans, which are the legacy of the Cold War. South Koreans attitudes towards North Korea should be changed drastically from hostility to fraternity. This might be the best way to reduce the influence of the anti-North social groups, who still hold significant offices in the government, press, and politics.

U.S. interruption to the South-North dialogue is anticipated as well. As is clearly mentioned in the article 2, the Koreans are ?he masters of the country? so the success of the South-North summit meeting is likely to reduce the influence of the U.S. in the peninsula. This will conflict with the interests of the U.S. in their policy of politics, diplomacy and military. It is already revealed in the Joint Vision 2020, in which the U.S. tries to find ground for their armed forces in the peninsula when peace is achieved. The settlement of peace and reunification of Korea will also diminish the reason for the NMD and the TMD by the U.S. government. This, in turn, will force the U.S. to interfere in the South-North talks negatively.

The unstable condition of South Korean domestic politics is anticipated to be a severe obstacle to the South-North talks. In order to consolidate the Agreement, various laws in South Korea should be amended or abolished. However, the opposition party, comparatively more conservative, is majority in the Parliament. The opposition party demands that important policies and their changes by the government concerning the South-North relations should be approved by the Parliament. So this political situation will put obstacles in the way of improving South-North relations and the hope of reunification and peace in the Korean Peninsula.

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