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2008/10/09 10:55 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 24 (October 9, 2008)


Inter-Korean Military Talks End with Little Progress

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Military officials from the two Koreas met at the truce village of Panmunjom on Oct. 2 for the first inter-Korean military dialogue in eight months, but the talks ended shortly without any significant progress after the North's delegates warned of "grave consequences" for Seoul's spreading of propaganda leaflets.

   "The North Korean side provided a detailed list of incidents in which (South Korean) civic organizations spread leaflets, and demanded an apology and the punishment of those responsible," Col. Lee Sang-cheol, Seoul's chief delegate to the talks, told a press briefing.

   North Korean delegates warned of grave consequences at the joint industrial complex of the two Koreas in the North's border town of Kaesong should South Korean organizations continue to spread what they called "propaganda leaflets," according to Lee.

   Consequences could include the barring of South Koreans from the North through the inter-Korean border and the eviction of all South Koreans from the Kaesong complex as well as the South Korean-developed resort in the North's Mt. Kumgang, Pyongyang's delegation was quoted as saying.

   The North's threat to halt the Kaesong project comes after Seoul pulled out all its officials from the Mt. Kumgang resort following the July killing of a South Korean tourist there.

   North Korea has cut off all dialogue with the South since Seoul's Lee Myung-bak administration was inaugurated in February vowing to take a firmer stance against the communist North than its liberal predecessors. The military meeting was the first inter-Korean dialogue since President Lee took office. The last round of military talks were held on Jan. 25.

   Col. Lee, Seoul's chief delegate to the talks who heads the Defense Ministry's North Korea policy bureau, said the meeting cannot be called a complete failure.

   "Considering that no military talks had been held in the past eight months and that today's meeting was the first of its kind under our new government, the talks were more aimed at exchanging each other's view on issues that needed to be urgently addressed rather than producing a solution to a certain problem," Lee told the press briefing.

   North Korea's chief delegate, Col. Pak Rim-su, earlier said the meeting had solely focused on the issue of South Korea's spread of propaganda leaflets. "The talks were held after a long hiatus, but the South's stance was not reflective of a desire to solve problems," Pak told reporters shortly before crossing the military demarcation line that divides the two Koreas.

   The talks, held on the South Korean side of the joint security area, better known as the truce village of Panmumjom, ended less than two hours after they got off to a rough start. The talks were delayed by nearly an hour as the North Korean delegation demanded the entire meeting be open to the media.

   Seoul protested, saying no previous inter-Korean dialogue had been fully open to the media and that the North was trying to turn the talks into a venue for its propaganda.

   While North Korea focused mainly on the issue of air-dropped leaflets, South Korean delegates took the opportunity to raise many issues that needed to be addressed at official talks between the two Koreas, Lee said.

   Seoul demanded North Korea immediately halt its defamation of the South Korean president, noting that its repeated verbal and written attacks against President Lee since his inauguration seriously violated the countries' 2004 agreement, under which the sides also agreed to stop propaganda broadcasts across the DMZ, a buffer to the military demarcation line, according to the colonel.

   The South Korean delegates also demanded that the North agree to launch a joint investigation into the shooting of South Korean Park Wang-ja at Mt. Kumgang and establish safety measures to prevent the recurrence of such a tragic accident, he said.

   At these demands, North Korean delegates reiterated their country's official position and said they will review them once they return to Pyongyang, according to Lee.

   North Korea had refused the joint investigation, prompting Seoul to withdraw its officials and suspend all tours to the mountain resort, jointly developed by Hyundai Asan, an affiliate of Hyundai Group.


Two Koreas Mark Anniversary of Oct. 4 Summit with Suspicion and Hostility

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South and North Korea marked the first anniversary of the landmark Oct. 4 summit between the leaders of the two Koreas last year in sharp contrast with each other, with the Seoul government reluctant to implement the summit accords and Pyongyang accusing the South of not implementing them.

   North Korean media poured harsh criticism on the South's Lee Myung-bak administration, saying it is driving inter-Korean relations to confrontation while totally refusing to implement the June 15 joint declaration and the Oct. 4 declaration.

   The North's committee for the implementation of the June 15 declaration said a "fascist dictatorship" is reviving in the South, which it said is mercilessly suppressing the unification movement of progressive and democratic forces in South Korea.

   At a civilian ceremony to mark the first anniversary on Oct. 1, former President Roh Moo-hyun said the agreement that he signed in a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il a year ago has been "abandoned" by Seoul. "It is an abandoned declaration," Roh said in his speech to a civilian ceremony here to mark the first anniversary of the summit.

   On the day of the anniversary, a civilian group dedicated to the implementation of the June 15 declaration celebrated the Oct. 4 summit declaration at Imjingak in Paju, with some 600 people attending. Former unification minister Lee Jae-joung urged the Seoul government to resume dialogue with Pyongyang to improve inter-Korean relations.

   North Korea, angered by Lee's tough stance against the North, has spurned the president's repeated offers of dialogue and stepped up harsh criticism of his administration.

   Although Seoul says it has neither ignored the summit accords nor refused to carry them out, it still appears unwilling to implement the agreements in the face of public opinion that remains largely negative towards spending taxpayers' money to aid the nuclear-armed neighbor.

   Lee is reluctant to implement further inter-Korean programs under last year's deal, which are estimated to cost Seoul at least 14.3 trillion won (US$11.9 billion).

   In Pyongyang, a national meeting was held on Oct. 3 to mark the first anniversary of the publication of the historic October 4 declaration, with high-ranking officials and citizens attending.

   Yang Hyong-sop, vice president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, in his report said that the historic October 4 declaration constitutes action guidelines and a program for implementing the June 15 joint declaration, which comprehensively indicates ways to develop inter-Korean relations, achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula, lead to co-prosperity of the nation and the country's reunification.

   He stressed that the Oct. 4 declaration reflects the desire and wishes of the nation to expand and develop economic cooperation for the balanced development of the Korean nation's economy and co-prosperity on the principle of common interests and co-prosperity.

   He also underlined the need for Koreans of all strata in the North and the South and overseas to strongly reject the "servile sycophantic and treacherous acts of the South Korean conservative ruling forces and their confrontational moves against the nation and reunification and decisively frustrate all sorts of interference and arbitrary practices of foreign forces."

   The Oct. 4 summit agreement outlined plans to end military hostilities and build mutual confidence between the two Koreas, as well as further developing inter-Korean economic cooperation programs. The agreements call for the expansion of the joint industrial complex at Kaesong, just north of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two countries, as well as repair of the country's obsolete roads and railways and the creation of a joint shipbuilding complex.

   A series of high-level talks between the countries' prime ministers, defense ministers and economic officials to discuss ways to carry out the Oct. 4 declaration followed the summit.

   North-South relations dramatically improved after the historic first summit in 2000 between then President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Ties were further cemented following the Oct. 4 summit, but turned sour after the inauguration of the conservative, pro-U.S. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in late February.

   As relations quickly chilled, however, Lee softened his stance, offering to discuss humanitarian food aid to North Korea and paying lip service to the spirit of the past two summit agreements.

   Angered by Lee's initial hardline position, Pyongyang spurned Lee's repeated offers of dialogue and stepped up its harsh criticism of him, accusing the president at one point of being a "traitor."

   Pyongyang has continued to insist however, that it will not return to the dialogue table until Seoul pledges to carry out all previous agreements, and has demanded that Seoul punish conservative civic groups for flying anti-North Korean propaganda banners, officials said.


Seoul's Liberal Party Seeks Stronger Inter-Korean Ties in Kaesong

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Legislators of South Korea's main opposition party called for the resumption of stalled dialogue with Pyongyang and pledged to make efforts to implement an inter-Korean agreement struck last year as they visited the North Korean border town of Kaesong on Oct. 2.

   About 50 legislators of the liberal Democratic Party made a one-day trip to the Kaesong inter-Korean joint industrial complex to mark the first anniversary of the Oct. 4 inter-Korean declaration made by South Korea's former President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

   Relations between the divided countries, which technically remain at war, warmed after their first-ever summit in 2000, leading to a historic agreement committed to ending military hostilities across the border and revitalizing inter-Korean economic cooperation.

   Most of the agreements remain unfulfilled, however, as Seoul's conservative, pro-Washington President Lee Myung-bak took office in late February pledging to take a harder line on it's communist neighbour. North Korea has recently been backtracking from a six-party aid-for-denuclearization deal reached last year.

   "Our party will actively seek reconciliation talks with North Korean politicians to play a role in thawing the frozen inter-Korean ties," said Chung Sye-kyun, who led the visiting lawmakers in Kaesong, according to media pool reports. "The party leadership, including myself, is willing to visit Pyongyang and meet its officials."

   Chung also called on the Lee government to make more effort in implementing the Oct. 4 agreement. "The party will make the utmost effort in implementing the historic agreement and achieving a peaceful Korean Peninsula," he said. "The Lee administration must soften its hardline stance toward the North to ease the ongoing tension."

   At present, over 32,000 North Koreans work for 79 South Korean manufacturing plants at the Kaesong complex, a legacy of the previous South Korean liberal governments' engagement policy towards the North.