The North–South Summit in Pyongyang

|Korean Peninsula

When Kim Dae Jung, President of the Republic of Korea (ROK), stood in Pyongyang, a large cog of the Korean Peninsula’s history moved forward. The ROK authorities admonished people for having excessive expectations for the inter-Korean summit meeting, saying that “the summit meeting itself has meaning.” However, the meeting achieved more than expected. Separate meetings between President Kim Dae Jung and Chairman Kim Jong Il were held twice, and they signed the historical joint declaration.

Chairman Kim Jong Il welcomed President Kim Dae Jung in a flamboyant manner. He personally went to the airport to meet President Kim, went aboard on the same car, and lined-up 600,000 people on the roadsides. Chairman Kim walked along with shaky-legged President Kim, and showed concern for Mrs. Kim Dae Jung. Chairman Kim served as a very good host.

Chairman Kim was fully aware that Pyongyang was drawing world attention. It was shown at the first meeting with President Kim that he expressed strong will, saying that the world was paying attention, and that they had to respond within these three days. The following day, he said that he had watched programs shown on ROK television after midnight.

In the joint declaration, an agreement was reached regarding reunification, i.e. to solve the question of the country’s reunification independently and to recognize that a proposal for a lower stage federation advanced by the North side and a proposal for confederation put forth by the South side for the reunification of the country, have elements in common. Then, the two leaders struggled for their own “actual interest,” such as dispersed family from the ROK side and economic cooperation from the DPRK side. In particular, regarding economic cooperation, a phrase “to promote the balanced development of the national economy through economic cooperation” was included. If this means to raise the DPRK economy up to the ROK level, it will probably be too large a promise.

Apart from economic aid, which is the DPRK’s true intention, the DPRK positions this inter-Korean summit meeting as “the first step towards reunification.” It is significant that they agreed to adjust their plans in the joint declaration, because this is in line with the late Kim Il Song’s last intentions. Meanwhile, the agreement to reunify independently will serve to deny external intervention. This will give the DPRK a reason to insist on the removal of the US military based in the ROK.

They also agreed that Chairman Kim would visit Seoul at “an appropriate time.” However, there should be a commitment to realize greater goals than President Kim’s visit to Pyongyang. “An appropriate time” means a time when such conditions are realized. Such conditions must involve agreement between two the countries regarding a proposal for federation advanced by the North side and a proposal for confederation put forth by the South side for reunification.

This inter-Korean summit meeting has greatly improved the image of Chairman Kim Jong Il. However, we should not be under the illusion that the DPRK hopes for changes. The reason why the DPRK took a decisive step in terms of the summit meeting was to maintain the present regime. If excessive expectations were born in the ROK, reactions would be great.

The person who was active was actually Chairman Kim. His composed and humorous way of speaking attracted people, along with an interest in working out a riddle.

However, the central figure of this agreement is President Kim, who was burdened with the ROK people’s expectation and with his political career at risk, proceeded to Pyongyang. In marked contrast with the extravagantly smooth signature of Chairman Kim on the joint declaration, President Kim’s signature was upright and scrupulous, as if he was inscribing his long awaited wish.

[Translated by ERINA]