Moon Jae-in, the President of South Korea, and Kim Jong-un, the Chairman of North Korea, met at Panmunjom, the House of Peace, on April 27th. The inter-Korea summit was a meeting between the leaders of South and North Korea to discuss reconciliation and cooperation. Details included the denuclearization of North Korea, the declaration of the end of the Korean War, and the reunion of separated families. What was most important was the denuclearization of North Korea. There have been several inter-Korea summits before but unlike previous summits, the 2018 summit was held for only one day without North Korea's request for a delay and it was held at Panmunjom, not Pyongyang. Also, the environment surrounding the Korean peninsula was different. The previous summits took place during the North's nuclear development. This time, it took place after North Korea completed its nuclear development. So, the goal of the summit was aimed not just at stopping nuclear development, but at achieving complete denuclearization. Also, the countries surrounding the Korean Peninsula agree that there needs to be a change in relations regarding the Korean Peninsula and are working to change it. What kind of agreement should be reached at the upcoming North Korea-U.S. summit to resolve the issue of separation? Let's find out about the issues surrounding the Korean Peninsula that have not been solved since the separation and the international community's involvement with Korea.
1. How Did the 2018 Inter-Korea Summit Proceed?
a. The Compromised Treaty between South and North Korea
The agenda for the summit can be divided into denuclearization, peace settlement on the Korean Peninsula, and development of South and North Korean relations. The Korean Peninsula prosecuted a declaration to the end of the Korean War and will change to a peace agreement before the end of this year. They promised to hold regular meetings and continue to discuss the matter over the telephone from time to time. South Korea, North Korea, and the United States with China will actively conduct meetings. The leaders of South Korea and North Korea settled on an agreement to create a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula through complete denuclearization. The exchange visits of separated families from North Korea and South Korea will take place on August 15th. There will also be a joint national event and joint participation in international competitions. Regarding social and economic aspects, railway and road projects are to be carried out as well. This will include making the DMZ peaceful and creating a peace zone on the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the West Sea. In a further briefing, North Korea said it would move up its time zone by 30 minutes, to be in sync with the South’s.
b. Two Main Issues of the Panmunjom Declaration to Overcome
There are areas where conflict may arise in the practical part of the agreements reached at the 2018 summit. The first is about the NLL. The NLL is the Northern Limit Line in the West Sea which is a point of disagreement between both sides. South Korea and North Korea agreed to turn the NLL into a peace zone at the Panmunjom Declaration. However, this was also included in the announcement at the inter-Korean summit on October 4th 2007 but, was cancelled because North Korea refused to recognize the existence of the NLL. However, North Korea has not commented on this since the Panmunjom Declaration, and it is expected that this matter will be dealt with later. The second issue is how to make the DMZ a peaceful area. Currently, there are Guard Posts (GPs) which are warning stations, and Operational Posts (OPs), which are observation centers in the DMZ. Also, the General Outposts (GOPs) are in operation and heavy weapons are deployed there. However, there are problems about how South Korea and North Korea will withdraw their GPs and GOPs in union since the North Korean ones are three times as large as the South's.
c. The Second Inter-Korean Summit
North Korea cancelled the high-level talks with the South scheduled on May 16th, on the promised date itself. The talks had been postponed indefinitely because of North Korea's cancellation. The reason behind the cancellation seemed to be the conduction of the joint Korea-U.S. air force military training called Max Thunder. North Korea claimed that the U.S. and South Korea put pressure on them, citing the drills as an “intentional military provocation.” Consequently, on May 24th, US President Donald Trump called off nuclear talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un which was scheduled to be held on June 12th. He claimed that North Korea's hostility towards the U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was the motive behind the cancellation. Then, Kim Jong-un reached out to Moon Jae-in and said he wanted to meet him in person. Moon Jae-in agreed, and he and Kim sat down together on May 26th, 3pm at Panmunjom. They exchanged opinions about the implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration and successfully hosting future talks between the North and the U.S. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reportedly expressed his willingness for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. The high-level talks, which North Korea cancelled, will be held on June 1st with military officials' talks and Red Cross talks scheduled to take place as well. After the surprise meeting between the North and the South, Trump told reporters at the White House that they’re “…looking at June 12 in Singapore. That hasn’t changed. And it’s moving along pretty well…”
2. Viewing the Past Summits That Happened between South and North Korea
a. Inter-Korean Summit in 2000 and in 2007
The inter-Korean summit in 2000 is the summit between the North Korean former leader Kim Jong-il and South Korea former president Kim Dae-jung. From June 13th to 15th, 2000, they held the first summit, since the separation of the two Koreas, in Pyongyang for three days. They agreed on the June 15th South Korea and North Korea Joint Declaration at this summit. The main contents of the declaration are independent resolution of the reunification issue, the issue of separated families, and the activation of exchanges for economic and social cooperation. However, not all contents of the declaration were implemented. North Korea continued to make provocations against South Korea and resumed its first nuclear test in October 2006.
The inter-Korean Summit was held in Pyongyang on October 2nd to 4th 2007, between North Korean former leader Kim Jong-il and South Korean former president Roh Moo-hyun. The meeting announced the October 4th Declaration. The declaration was for the development of South Korea and North Korea’s relations, peace on the Korean peninsula and prosperity. In the declaration, the leaders admitted that South Korea and North Korea needed to announce an end to the war and establish a peace regime. They also promised to pursue joint projects in various areas, including politics, military, economics, and social culture. However, the Roh Moo-hyun government had only four months left in his term of office when the summit was held. The summit agreement was not implemented along with a change in government. Also, the 2007 Summit failed due to the breakdown of negotiations between the United States and North Korea.
b. How the Lessons from the Past Summits Influenced the South and North Korean Relationship
There is a lesson that can be taught from the two previous inter-Korean summits. The agreement would have been meaningless if both South Korea and North Korea did not have the trust and the will to act, even if they came up with and agreed on a good plan at that time. Although the first inter-Korean summit was successful, it became null because of conflicts within South Korea over South Korea and North Korea’s joint declaration and North Korea's broken promises. It is considered that it will take much time for North Korea to complete its denuclearization. We should work hard on the management after the affair. It is necessary to resolve the three issues identified by the Panmunjom Declaration through a smooth agreement with North Korea. Just because the talks are conducted in a positive way, we should not be relaxed but always remain vigilant and pay attention to how each article is being implemented.
3. International Community Paying Attention to the inter-Korean Summit
a. China and Japan Passing
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited North Korea in early May, right after the summit. In meeting with North Korean Foreign Secretary Lee Young-ho, he stressed that China would strengthen communication ties with North Korea and try to solve problems within the Korean Peninsula. After that, Chinese President Xi Jinping met face-to-face with Kim Jong-un at a meeting and made an effort to dispel concerns over “China Passing.” At the Declaration of Panmunjom during the Korea Summit, President Moon and Kim Jong-un declared they would push for three-way talks involving the U.S. or four-party talks including the U.S. and China to build peace. Therefore, it is possible that China will be excluded from the talks. Until now, China has supported North Korea to prevent the spread of Western forces in East Asia and tried to make a buffer zone. So, if North Korea becomes familiar with the U.S., China will be likely be pressured by the U.S. According to the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, the meeting between President Xi and Kim proved the importance of China.
Meanwhile, the issue of “Japan Passing” seems greater than China. So far, the Japanese government has been trying to make a stance against North Korea. They tried to resolve the kidnapping issue and get away from North Korea’s missile threats through their strong policy against North Korea. However, due to the sudden change in mood regarding the Korean Peninsula in recent months, the Japanese government has lost its justification for maintaining a tough attitude. After that, Abe has been trying to highlight the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea. Right after the inter-Korean Summit, Abe made a phone call to President Moon Jae-in and said, “The kidnapping issue of Japanese citizens was mentioned at the summit. It is confirmed that the inter-Korean Summit was conducted in accordance with the guidelines that we set,” but he declined to elaborate. Also, Abe has asked President Trump to mention the Japanese kidnapping issue during the North Korea-U.S. summit, but it is questionable as to whether Trump will even bring up Japan’s issues at the summit.
b. Prospects and Challenges of the North Korea-U.S. Summit
The two leaders of the U.S. and North Korea, who have been standing off against each other since the inauguration of the Trump administration, are facing a historic meeting. The summit will be held in Singapore rather than at either candidate’s home country, including Panmunjom and Pyongyang, on June 12th. Experts say denuclearization should be discussed in greater depth at the summit as Ken Gauss, a doctor at the U.S. Naval Research Institute, replied to a question by Yonhap News Agency saying that the Joint Declaration of Panmunjom did not include concrete implementation of denuclearization. Also, ways on how to achieve denuclearization should be resolved at the upcoming meeting. Before the summit, talks between North Korea and the U.S. have occurred several times. Pompeo, the U.S. Secretary of State, visited North Korea in May and met with Kim Jong-un. They discussed “allowing inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA and other inspectors at North Korea’s nuclear facilities, the abolition of nuclear facilities for transportation, and the disposal of nuclear development data.” In response to the request from the U.S., North Korea agreed to nuclear inspections but requested the U.S. to provide infrastructure and economic assistance. From now on, how each of the two countries proceed is very important.
4. What We Could Expect When Peace Comes to the Korean Peninsula
a. Realization of World Power with Eurasia at the Center
World dominance, which used to be the centered in Europe, is gradually shifting across the United States to Eurasia. For this, it will require the realization of the Eurasia Initiative, a measure that binds the Eurasian continent into an economic community and induces openness to North Korea to build peace within the Korean Peninsula. Currently, Korail has not joined the Organization for Cooperation of Railways (OSJD) as a regular member. The OSJD is an international railway organization in Eastern Europe and Asian countries such as Russia, China, Kazakhstan, and North Korea. It establishes various regulations for the Eurasian Railway such as Trans-Siberian Railway and Trans-China Rrailway and oversees cooperation among member countries. However, unanimity is needed to join as a member. The South Korean government has been trying to join the OSJD since the 2000s, but has failed to do so due to opposition from North Korea and China. So South Korea is only an associate member of OSJD. In March 2018, Korail Chairman Oh Young-sik announced that the project of connecting South Korea and North Korea’s railway would be carried out after the inter-Korean summit. In order to realize the Eurasia Initiative and to shift global power to Eurasia with it in the center, an amicable agreement between both sides must be made first.
b. Reunion of Separated Families from North and South Korea
Over the past 60 years, the issue of separated families has been a wound resulting from separation and war. It has long remained a political battle between South Korea and North Korea. However, it is necessary to consider that the issue of separated families is not just a matter of a certain individual or political one of Korea, but also one of the most common problems in the world since modern times and a social problem. As the aging and death of the first generation’s separated families gradually discern the importance of reunions of separated families, further discussions, and realistic approaches regarding separated families are needed before it is too late. Currently, the issue of the aging population of separated families is serious. According to the Ministry of Unification in 2018, more than half of 131,531 people who applied for the reunions died. Also, 22.4 percent of those still alive are over 90 years old, 45.3 percent of them are in their 80s, and 25.1 percent of them are in their 70s. If the details of declaration go well, they will be able to meet again soon.
Through the 2018 inter-Korean summit on April 27, the leaders of the two Koreas promised a declaration that includes the announcement of an end to the Korean War within a year and a denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. However, we should remember that it is not the first time both sides have reached such an agreement. Agreements between both sides were reached in the past, but they were never implemented. We should always be careful about inter-Korean summits because there is enough room to repeat what happened in the past. It is true that the latest summit has helped to improved relations between both sides, but if the agreement does not work out properly, the relationship will deteriorate more than ever. Therefore, both sides should implement the agreement through careful post processing. Let's hope the issue regarding the Korean Peninsula, the only divided nation in the world, will be resolved.< 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >