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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 215 (June 21, 2012)
*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 1)

Koreas Hold Separate Celebrations on June 15 Joint Inter-Korean Declaration

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Reflecting their badly frayed inter-Korean relations, South and North Korea held separate anniversary celebrations of their landmark summit in June, 2000.

   The leaders of the two Koreas produced a joint declaration at the summit on June 15, 2000, that looked to pave the way for the divided Koreas to ease military tensions and begin economic cooperation.

   In the latest sign of lingering tensions on the Korean Peninsula, neither side shared any events for the historic summit nor held joint celebrations as they have in the past.

   North Korea held a state-administered meeting as usual, while the South did not hold any government-level celebrations, although liberal and progressive parties and civic groups held their own ceremonies in a modest manner.

   In Pyongyang, North Korea held a ceremony to mark the June 15 Joint Declaration reached between South Korean then President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, according to the North's official media.

   Radio Pyongyang said senior government and party officials met on June 8 to appeal to all Koreans at home and abroad to revive the joint declaration reached in 2000 at the summit.

   Leaders of the two Koreas have met twice, first in 2000 and again in 2007. Those meetings were held when South Korea was led by liberal presidents, Kim Dae-jungin 2000 and Roh Moo-hyun in 2007.

   The two sides have alternated hosting joint celebrations of the summit in the past but the joint anniversary events were suspended in recent years as tensions rose.

   The North's radio station claimed the declaration is a precious legacy of reunification and patriotism left by the nation's late leader Kim Jong-il. Kim died in December last year after ruling the socialist country for nearly 18 years since he had inherited power from his father, North Korea's founder Kim Il-sung, in 1994.

   North Korea's main newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, said the June 15 declaration has served as a milestone for Korea's independent reunification. In an English-language article, the organ of the Workers' Party said, "By the Korean nation itself, the idea of national independence, has served as mental nutrition for all Koreans at home and abroad in their efforts to advance the movement for national reunification along the orbit of independence without the slightest deviation."

   "In the course of embodying the idea, the Korean nation came to have the firm conviction that the implementation of the joint declarations is the only way of thoroughly rejecting outsiders' interference in the issue of Korea's reunification and achieving independent reunification, peace and prosperity," the newspaper said.

   The article went on to emphasize that the implementation of the joint declarations helped wipe out mistrust and misunderstanding and unprecedentedly gave momentum to an atmosphere of reconciliation and unity.

   The joint declaration has received little attention in South Korea since conservative President Lee Myung-bak took office in early 2008 with a policy to link aid to progress in ending the North's nuclear ambitions. Seoul has consistently called on the North to give up its nuclear program and halt aggression towards the South.

   South Korea effectively halted all aid to the North after Pyongyang was accused of sinking a South Korean warship in the West Sea in March 2010, which left 46 sailors dead.

   In Seoul, a subdued ceremony was held on the eve of the anniversary of the joint declaration, jointly sponsored by the Kim Dae-jung Peace Center, Yonsei University's Kim Dae-jung Library and the Korean Peace Forum.

   Lee Hee-ho, the wife of the late president Kim, gave a congratulatory speech as the director of the Kim Dae-jung Peace Center, and many opposition Democratic United Party members, including party chairman Lee Hae-chan and party advisor and presidential hopefuls Moon Jae-in and Chung Dong-young, attended. Minor opposition Unified Progressive Party members also participated.

   The subject of this year's ceremony was titled "Rapidly-changing World and Peaceful Development of the Korean Peninsula." Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon gave a speech in which he said, "We must stand once again at the starting point of the June 15 Joint Declaration, which was the beginning of the promise that we should never return to the Cold War era."

   In the southern city of Gwangju, an academic seminar was held on June 15 to celebrate the declaration's 12th anniversary, and South Jeolla Province governor Park Joon-young gave a speech.

   Meanwhile, an art exhibition is being held at a gallery in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, to mark the anniversary, featuring landscape paintings by renowned North and South Korean painters. Most of the North Korean paintings are landscapes of scenic Mount Kumgang, Mount Chilbo and Mount Paektu, the highest mountain on the Korean Peninsula.

   Former unification minister Lim Dong-won also recently gave a seminar at the Asia-Pacific Research Center of Stanford University in conjunction with the U.S. release of his new memoir, "Peacemaker."

   As the architect of former President Kim's "Sunshine Policy" for engaging North Korea, the 78-year-old shares in the book his experience and insight as both a witness of and participant in more than 20 years of diplomatic negotiations with North Korea, from the initial rounds of inter-Korean talks to the historic inter-Korean summit of 2000.

   An English version of his book has been published by the Asia-Pacific Research Center of Stanford University.

   Following a 30-year career in the South Korean military, Lim held numerous key federal-level posts and is currently chairman of the Korea Peace Forum.

   Earlier this year, the two Koreas tried in vain to agree on how to jointly celebrate the 12th anniversary of the summit. In February, a South Korean private delegation met with its North Korean counterpart in China to discuss how to mark the anniversary, despite a ban by the Seoul government on such meetings.

   The committees said they would "hold the event in the North and the South and abroad separately" as their delegates could not meet due to Seoul's "unreasonable disallowance of contact," according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

   Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk said from Seoul it is not appropriate for South Korean citizens to celebrate the summit anniversary with North Korea, citing inter-Korean differences on the summit declaration.

   The North has routinely pressed South Korea to honor the summit agreement.

   Tensions increased on the Korean Peninsula after the North made two deadly attacks on the South in 2010. North Korea has also ratcheted up its military threats against South Korea in recent months.

   Last year, the North held a national meeting urging both South and North Koreans to actively participate in implementing past inter-Korean accords. North Korea held a national meeting last year at the Central Hall of Workers to mark the 11th anniversary of the June 15 joint declaration.

   In a report at the meeting, Yang Hyong-sop, vice president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, said the June 15, 2000, and Oct. 4, 2007, inter-Korean summit accords were "joint unification rivers that must be raised up until the day of (achieving) an independent unification." "(We) will further activate and popularize the movements for implementing the June 15 and Oct. 4 agreements," he said.

   Yang also censured the Lee Myung-bak government, alleging it drove inter-Korean relations to a "point of collapse," while lauding the South's opposition parties and liberal circles for their support.