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View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday said he plans to discuss with the U.S. ways to reopen Mount Kumgang Tourism and the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC).
Announcing his initiative for the “new Korean Peninsula regime” in a speech marking the centenary of the beginning of Korea’s March 1 independence movement, Moon said he wanted Seoul to “take on a leading role”
“The coming 100 years will differ from the past. We will push ahead with a bold transition toward a new Korean Peninsula regime and prepare for unification,” Moon told attendants at Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Square.
“Working together with the people and with North Korea as well, we will create a new order of peace and cooperation,” Moon said.
The “new Korean Peninsula regime” also includes a plan to establish a “new community of economic cooperation” between Seoul and Pyongyang.
“I will help usher in an era of a peace-driven economy on the Korean peninsula,” the South Korean President told the crowd.
“Now our role has become even more important”.
In his speech on Korea’s #March1 Day, President @moonriver365 says the Trump-Kim summit made meaningful progress and stresses the importance of Seoul’s role in mediation going forward. @YonhapNews https://t.co/qYA9wpRc6e #삼일절 pic.twitter.com/j9KNsUU8CP
— NK NEWS (@nknewsorg) March 1, 2019
While laying out the plan for enhancing inter-Korean economic cooperation, Moon said South Korea “will consult with the U.S. on ways to resume cooperation at Kumgang mountain and the operation of the Kaesong Industrial Complex.”
Ahead of the second DPRK-U.S. summit, Moon said in a phone conversation with Trump that inter-Korean cooperation could be utilized as “corresponding measures aimed at encouraging North Korea to take denuclearization steps.”
The ROK President also said Seoul is “determined to take on any role should President Trump make a request” on anything related to inter-Korean cooperation, stressing that it would be a way to reduce the burden on Washington.
September’s Pyongyang Joint Declaration saw Seoul and Pyongyang agree to normalize cooperation at the Mount Kumgang resort and the KIC as a matter of priority should “conditions mature.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in his New Year’s Address also said he was willing to restart work on those sites “without any precondition and in return for nothing.”
During his Friday speech, the South Korean President said an inter-Korean “joint economic committee will be established” when there is progress in the denuclearization process, explaining that it aims to “produce economic achievements that benefit both South and North Korea.”
A similar such organization was also established in the past: the Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation Promotion Committee was launched in 2000.
It later renamed the Joint Committee for Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation and was headed by deputy minister-level officials following the October 4 2007 Declaration.
Seoul and Pyongyang have used the organization to discuss major inter-Korean economic projects including road and rail connection, the establishment of the KIC, and Mount Kumgang.
Moon also on Friday said that the demilitarized zone (DMZ) “could be used jointly for the well-being of Koreans from both sides” by various means, including the creation of a peace park, eco-peace tourism, and other types of visits.
“This will lead to South Koreans’ free and safe trips to North Korea,” he said, adding that he, by extension, will “strive to make it possible for separated families and displaced people to visit their hometowns and meet with their relatives.”
The plan for tourism at the DMZ is part of the “New Economic Map Initiative of the Korean Peninsula” unveiled by the Moon administration in July 2017 — a plan to lay the groundwork for economic unification by resuming inter-Korean cooperation and developing a single market between the two.
That plan would see Seoul build three inter-Korean economic belts on the peninsula: an energy-resource belt on the east coast, an industry-logistics and distribution-transportation belt on the west coast, and an environmental tourism belt in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
In addition to inter-Korean economic cooperation, the ROK President said the “new Korean Peninsula regime” means a “new community of peace and cooperation that will end confrontation and conflict.”
“We will establish a permanent peace regime without fail on the basis of our unwavering will, close ROK-U.S. coordination, a settlement in North Korea-U.S. talks, and support from the international community.”
Moon pledged that his administration assist Pyongyang and Washington to “reach a complete settlement by any means” by closely communicating and cooperation with both sides.
In a post-summit phone conversation with President Trump on Thursday, Moon was asked to actively play the role of mediator in the continuing negotiations process.
Moon said in Friday’s speech that Seoul’s role “has become even more important,” emphasizing that “surmounting many critical junctures” is required to “firmly settle” a permanent peace on the Korean peninsula.
Though the second DPRK-U.S. summit concluded on Thursday without a deal, Moon positively assessed that the meeting led to “meaningful progress” given that the two leaders had “enhanced mutual understanding and built more trust” after the lengthy dialogue.
Moon emphasized the discussion about setting up liaison offices in Pyongyang and Washington was “an important step toward the normalization of bilateral ties.”
North Korea and the U.S. previously agreed to the setting up of liaison offices in their Agreed Framework signed in October 1994, though did not ultimately follow through with that part of the deal.
The establishment of the liaison office was seen as an attempt to move toward with “full normalization of political and economic relations,” according to the agreement text.
“I believe this is part of a process to reach a higher level of agreement.”
Edited by Colin Zwirko and Oliver Hotham
Featured image: The Blue House