The two Koreas have agreed to hold a joint-run commemorative event to mark the 11th anniversary of the October 4 inter-Korean Declaration, the South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU) announced on Tuesday.
The joint celebration will be held between Thursday and Saturday in the North Korean capital, with around 150 people from the South Korean public and private sectors flying to Pyongyang using a direct route along the western coast of the peninsula.
The two Koreas last month agreed to hold “meaningful events” to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the October 4 Declaration, signed by the late DPRK leader Kim Jong Il and late ROK President Roh Moo-hyun in 2007.
In a written statement, the unification ministry said the joint commemorative event marking the 11th anniversary will be held on Friday.
South Korean visitors will attend art performance and visit “major facilities,” it added, without sharing the furthering details.
A five-member high-level delegation, including South Korean Minister of Unification Cho Myoung-gyon and Lee Hae-chan, who serves as chairman of the Roh Moo-hyun Foundation and of the ROK’s ruling Democratic Party, is set to lead the group.
A total of 30 representatives from the Moon administration, the National Assembly, political parties, and local government will be dispatched to Pyongyang, according to the ministry.
Vice Minister of Health and Welfare Kwon Deok-cheol and head of the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) Chung Jae-suk are also scheduled to visit the North.
Tuesday saw the unification ministry say Seoul expects that “separate consultations between the South and North Korean authorities will be held” during the visit, and that each sector will hold an inter-Korean meeting.
Former unification ministers Lee Jae-joung, Lee Jong-seok, and Jeong Se-hyun are set to attend.
A total of 85 people from private organizations, including the Roh Moo-hyun foundation and the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation (KCRC) – led by former President Kim Dae-jung’s son Kim Hong-gul – will take part in the events.
When contacted by NK News, the Roh foundation confirmed that the late President’s son Geon-ho will visit Pyongyang while his widower Kwon Yang-sook, who visited Pyongyang in August 2015, would not attend.
The foundation has also requested a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“…We made the proposal, but my understanding is that the Ministry of Unification still has to have a discussion with the North on the issue,” an official — who wished to remain anonymous — told NK News.
Monday also saw Lee Hae-chan tell a news conference he hoped to meet Kim Jong Un.
The unification ministry on Tuesday said the Moon administration plans to finance the stay of the South Korean visitors, including transportation and accommodation expenses.
Pyongyang has reportedly covered expenses for events in which Southern authorities have participated.
“Our stance is that the project to recover national homogeneity doesn’t defy sanctions on North Korea,” an official at the unification ministry — who wished to remain anonymous — said.
“We will pay expenses from the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund, but we proceed while providing an explanation to the U.S. in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
Concerns about sanctions have in recent months, however, prevented South Koreans visiting the North from paying for their stay.
When approximately 150 South Koreans visited Pyongyang to attend the international youth football tournament known as the Ari Sports Cup in August, both sides agreed that Seoul would cover their expenses when sanctions are lifted.
The unification ministry, however, has stressed this week’s event was the first of its kind.
“This has the great significance in the sense that this is the first joint event hosted by private and public sector in 10 years and the first inter-Korean joint commemorative ceremony in 11 years since the October 4 Declaration was agreed,” the unification ministry said.
Seoul and Pyongyang planned the event through the recently-opened inter-Korean liaison office, which opened in September at now-shuttered Kaesong Industrial Complex.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Pyeongyang Press Corps
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