About the Author
View more articles by JH Ahn
JH Ahn was an NK News contributor based in Seoul. He previously worked as an interpreter for United States Forces Korea.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in gave a speech on Thursday to commemorate the 17th anniversary of June 15th North–South Joint Declaration, reiterating his desire to improve inter-Korean relations and calling for talks between Pyongyang and Seoul.
In his speech, the President praised the late-Kim Dae-jung’s Sunshine Policy, adding that dialogue with Pyongyang would be possible if North Korea ceased its nuclear and missile tests.
The speech’s timing is significant: recent gestures by Seoul towards reconciliation have been repeatedly rejected by Pyongyang, and attempts by South Korea’s National Assembly to promote family reunions this August was met with demands by Pyongyang that Seoul return 13 “abducted” defectors to the North before meetings can take place.
But Moon said he firmly believes that Seoul can overcome these difficulties, just as Kim Dae-jung did, and take a “big step” towards inter-Korean reconciliation.
NK News has translated what we think are some of the most important lines.
What follows is a partial translation – including only what NK News sees as the most important parts of Moon’s statement. For the full Korean version, check here.
“Standing here today, I can deeply feel the weight that President Kim Dae-jung carried in the past.
President Kim was a leader who lived a life of genuine courage, by practicing ‘conscience in action’ even when he feared the worst result that his actions might cause to his life.
That courage opened the era of the South Korean democracy. But moreover, the big achievement of President Kim was his opening of the inter-Korean reconciliation, peace and Sunshine Policy.
“Inter-Korean relations must be established anew and must be improved”
President Kim, during his term, showed that it is (Koreans) who are in charge of the issues on the Korean Peninsula.
Through the inter-Korean Summit that was held for the first time since the Korean division, President Kim caused a great transformation in inter-Korean relations.”
“For the first time in history, (through his actions) he showed all of us that the peaceful unification of the South and the North is a possibility.
Our honored guests… inter-Korean relations must be established anew and must be improved.
The path (Kim took) was never smooth.
Soon after his inauguration North Korea launched Daepodong 1 (long-range missile), while suspicions surfaced about the second North Korean underground nuclear facility in Geumchang-ri.
After 1994, when Washington was reviewing a plan to conduct strikes against North Korea’s Yeongbyun nuclear facility, the Korean Peninsula was again falling into a tension-ridden environment.
“President Kim drew a great transformation in inter-Korean relations”
(President Kim’s decisions) show what we need to do today to overcome the current challenges.
The North’s development of its nuclear and missile technologies is now a pressing concern that endangers the peace and stability of the world.
I’d like to take this opportunity to urge North Korea once again. It must give up its nuclear development and find the way to cooperate with the international society.”
KEEPING THE AGREEMENTS
“We all remember how President Kim opened a new era of inter-Korean reconciliation – despite the tensions caused by the North’s provocative actions at that time.
Today, we have the will, wisdom and capacity to resolve the North’s nuclear issue through the international cooperation.
Just as President Kim improved the inter-Korean relations while still abiding by the rules of not accepting the North’s nuclear development and provocation, following that, we will resolve the tasks with a new and bold blueprint for future of the Korean Peninsula.
Honored guests, remember that both the South and the North have reached multiple important historical agreements amid hostility and multiple confrontations.
From the July 4 South-North Joint Communiqué, Inter-Korean Basic Agreement, June 15th North–South Joint Declaration and to October 4 Declaration in 2007: over the years the South and the North have made progress.
“We all remember how President Kim opened a new era of inter-Korean reconciliation”
All of the inter-Korean agreements from the past governments are valuable assets which must be respected despite the change of the government.
This administration will treat all of the previous inter-Korean agreements as “principles” that the South and the North must return to.
Also, we will find all of the answers we need to resolve the issues surrounding today’s Korean Peninsula by looking back at the past agreements.
All the answers we need to resolve the North’s nuclear issues can be found from the past agreements.
The promise that will ensure all of South Koreans’ safety is in these agreements.
The plans that the South and the North can both prosper can be all found from these as well.”
MESSAGE TO PYONGYANG
“Recently, the North demanded the South abide by June 15th North–South Joint Declaration and October 4 Declaration.
However, it is North Korea who is not abiding by the past agreements – sending a gesture of peace with one hand while developing their nuclear arsenal with the other.
We will do our best (to improve the relations), and I expect the same from the North as well.
“We may engage in unconditional dialogue with the North”
The North’s decision to give up its nuclear weapons will be a memento that symbolizes Pyongyang’s interest in following and practicing the past inter-Korean agreements.
Should they practice it, we will do our best to support them.
I announce today that we may engage in unconditional dialogue with the North should it stop any further provocations through its nuclear weapons and missile systems.
I urge North Korean to respond.
I am willing to sit knee to knee and put heads together with the North to discuss on how the two parties should practice the agreements from the past.
The complete nuclear disarmament and formation of peace system in the Korean Peninsula and normalization of Pyongyang’s relations with Washington will be on the table of discussion as well.”
“Honored guests, I am sure that all of you remember the moment when President Kim and Chairman of the National Defense Commission Kim Jong Il embraced each other, on June 13, 2000.
I also remember what President Kim said soon after signing the June 15th North–South Joint Declaration.
He said ‘I used all of the strength I had in me (to reach today’s agreement), today is the longest, heaviest and the most worthwhile day of my entire life.’
When we can make our hearts beat again with the images of that day and remember what the President tried to achieve through his efforts, I am confident that the new era of Korean Peninsula will come true before our eyes.
The history of the whole of the South and the North being free from the tyranny of war will be written.
The history of the whole of the South and the North prospering by forming an economic community will be written.
The history about the Miracle of Han River leading to the Miracle of Daedong River (in Pyongyang) and achieving the miracle of the Korean Peninsula will also be written.
For too long we have remained shut and stood still.
Not only the path that connects the South and the North has remained shut, but maybe, our hearts have remained dormant for too long.
The government will do its best to restore inter-Korean relations and to engage in the dialogues again.
The government will also help people so that the embers of civil exchanges and cooperation may revive.
Let’s work together, so that we may turn today’s division in our hearts into the future of peaceful Korean Peninsula.
When the government and people can work for the same goal, side by side, we will be able to succeed President Kim’s ideology and the achievement of June 15th North–South Joint Declaration.
Let’s all work together so that what was written on June 15th North–South Joint Declaration may come true.
Succeeding Kim Dae-jung administration’s reconciliation and cooperation policies, and improving Roh Moo-hyun administration’s peace and prosperity policies to meet today’s standards – I will work this out with you, together with the people.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Presidential Archive and Moon Jae-in’s Facebook, edited by NK News