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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korean officials on Wednesday urged the two Koreas to “smash all kinds of sanctions and pressure” to achieve joint prosperity, the Rodong Sinmun reported on Thursday, urging Seoul to disregard international sanctions and push ahead with large-scale economic cooperation.
The appeal to “all Koreans” was adopted at the joint conference of the DPRK government, political parties, and organizations at the People’s Palace of Culture on Wednesday, at which officials discussed the “tasks for national reunification” laid out by Kim Jong Un in his New Year address.
In a Korean-language statement carried by the Rodong, an organ of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), the officials were reported to have called for “consistently promoting cooperation projects stated in inter-Korean declarations to lay the foundation for nation’s co-prosperity.”
“Let us actively move forward North-South cooperation projects by resuming the Kaesong Industrial Park and Mt Kumgang tourism suspended by internal and external anti-reunification forces,” the appeal read.
“There is no reason to walk on eggshells around others or get approval from someone in the inter-Korean cooperation projects which we implement with a sense of ownership.”
To implement inter-Korean economic projects, the appeal said the two Koreas should disregard external hindrances, including the framework of international sanctions.
“Let us open the path of the nation’s prosperity, smashing all kinds of sanctions and pressure imposed by the outside with the nation’s unified power as the North and the South firmly hold hands,” the appeal read.
“Let us heighten vigilance against the cunning moves of outsiders to create mistrust and alienation between the North and the South, and resolutely smash the sinister attempt to subordinate inter-Korean relations to their tastes and interests!”
The statement comes just days after North Korean state-run media denounced Seoul for taking an “indecisive attitude” on the resumption of the KIC and the Mount Kumgang tourism, following Kim Jong Un’s pledge in his New Year’s speech that Pyongyang was willing to resume the joint work at the KIC and tourism at Mount Kumgang “without any precondition and in return for nothing.”
South Korean President Moon Jae-in then welcomed Kim’s suggestion at a news conference a few days later, though he said Seoul would need to “cooperate with the international community, including the United States, to resolve the remaining issues such as international sanctions as soon as possible.”
Reiterating Kim’s New Year Address, officials on Wednesday called on Seoul to “fundamentally eradicate military hostility and make the Korean peninsula a durable and lasting peace zone.”
They also urged Seoul to “proactively take practical measures” to eradicate military hostility on the ground, airspace, and sea, emphasizing that the inter-Korean military agreement signed as an annex to the Pyongyang Joint Declaration serves as a “de-facto nonaggression declaration.”
“Let us never allow the maneuvers of internal and external anti-reunification forces that aggravate military confrontations and tensions between the North and the South and block and ruin them,” the statement said, calling for the suspension of all joint U.S.-ROK joint drills.
Last year saw the North explicitly call for the end of the ROK-U.S. joint military drills during a similar joint conference by the government, political parties, and organizations – typically held in the aftermath of the leader’s New Year speech.
Kim Yong Chol, who serves as vice-chairman of the WPK Central Committee and director of the party’s United Front Department (UFD), attended the conference, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Thursday.
Fresh from a recent trip to Washington DC, Kim that same day was reported to have briefed the North Korean leader on his talks last week with the U.S. President.
Other officials, including vice-premier and chairman of the State Planning Commission Ro Tu Chol and vice-president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) Yang Hyong Sop, attended the event.
Members of the North Side Committee for Implementing June 15 Joint Declaration, the Pan-National Alliance for Korea’s Reunification, and the Pan-National Alliance of Youth, Students for Korea’s Reunification, and the Consultative Council for National Reconciliation took part as well.
Wednesday also saw KCNA report on an enlarged plenary meeting of the DPRK Cabinet, at which ministers reportedly discussed tasks proposed in the leader’s New Year speech and recent decisions by the ruling party’s Political Bureau.
They were also reported to have analyzed and reviewed “flaws” found in the economy last year.
North Korean media in 2018 became increasingly willing to report on mistakes made by officials, with Kim Jong Un having expressed his disappointment several times last year during on-site inspections.
Kim was, for example, reported to have been “extremely furious” with cabinet officials for their careless management during a visit to the site of the Orangchon Power Station in July.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: KCNA