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Hopes rise for inter-Korean event for June 15 declaration

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : May 29, 2018 - 15:48

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Expectations for the revival of the inter-Korean celebration of the June 15 South-North Joint Declaration is rising, with the two Koreas set to hold the stalled high-level talks.

The June 15 Declaration was announced after the first-ever inter-Korean summit held in 2000. The declaration marked an unprecedented thaw on the peninsula after the 1950-53 Korean War, and was celebrated annually through jointly organized events until 2008. 

(Yonhap) (Yonhap)

Despite having been discontinued for nearly a decade, the two sides agreed to revive the event at the April 27 inter-Korean summit.

While the decision may have been shadowed by agreements on denuclearization, analysts say that the resumption of the event would be significant.

“The event for the June 15 Joint Declaration symbolizes the start of the joint implementation of the Panmunjeom Declaration because it is the first on the list in terms of timeframe,” said Hong Min, a senior researcher at the Korean Institute for National Unification.

“If the North decides to skip talks for the event, it would damage the trust and ties between the two Koreas and would work as an obstacle for implementing other agreements as well.”

Seoul’s Ministry of Unification reiterated Monday that a government task force has been formed to deal with the implementation of the event and has been communicating with relevant civic groups for preparation.

Despite Seoul’s efforts, the preparations for the first official cross-border event after the April 27 summit, has not been smooth.

The event was initially planned to be raised at the high-level meeting on May 16, but the North called the meeting off at the last minute, citing the South Korea-US joint military drills.

Meanwhile, North Korea on Tuesday stepped up its demand for the repatriation of former North Korean restaurant workers who defected to South Korea in April 2016. The announcement came days after the country’s Red Cross made the same demand.

The Korean Central News Agency demanded Seoul’s “sincerity” for the sustained development of inter-Korean ties and peace on the Korean Peninsula by sending back the defectors.

Analysts have pointed to the issue as a possible underlying reason behind the North’s recent adoption of a tougher stance toward the South.

Pyongyang claims that the group of 12 female workers and their male manager were abducted while working at a restaurant in China and brought to South Korea. But Seoul has dismissed the claim, saying that the group defected of its own volition.

Last week, a civic group’s planned three-day trip to North Korea to discuss the event was canceled as North Korea did not send out an invitation.

“We have yet to receive a message or an invitation from North Korea,” Choi Euna, secretary general for the South Korean Committee on June 15 Joint Declaration, told The Korea Herald on Tuesday.

“We just hope that a specific plan will be drawn for all cross-border civilian exchanges including the June 15 event.”

To travel to North Korea, an official invitation from the North must be submitted to the Unification Ministry for approval no later than seven days before the planned trip.

But the surprise summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Saturday is expected to clear the road for preparations.

The issue of joint June 15 event is expected to be raised at the high-level meeting rescheduled for Friday, among other key issues including the reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, which is slated to fall on the occasion of the National Liberation Day on Aug. 15.

The June 15 Declaration laid out the groundwork for several key projects that has defined inter-Korean relations since, such as family reunions, cross-border tours, and the now-shuttered joint Kaesong Industrial Complex.

By Jung Min-kyung (mkjung@heraldcorp.com)