South Korea has proposed holding a cross-border parliamentary meeting in November in Pyongyang and follow-up gathering next year in Seoul.
The proposal was made by South Korean lawmakers who were part of the 160-member delegation that visited Pyongyang last week for the joint celebration of the 11th anniversary of the 2007 inter-Korean summit.
Earlier this year, National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang had proposed to the North’s Supreme People’s Assembly that the two parliaments hold a joint meeting by the end of the year.
Lee Hae-chan, the chief of the ruling Democratic Party (Yonhap)
The North sent a positive reply in SPA Chairman Choe Thae-bok’s name on Sept. 27, adding that the time frame could be set once details of talks for the implementation of agreements reached between the leaders of the two Koreas at the Pyongyang summit last month have been decided.
It also said it hopes for the smooth ratification of the Panmunjom Agreement reached between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in April, hinting that such “progress” may be a condition for the parliamentary meeting.
A North Korean official told pool reporters that the South seems to want such a meeting next month in Pyongyang and another in 2019 in Seoul.
“The North wants the meeting within the year,” said Lee Hae-chan, chief of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea.
“The proposed meeting needs participation from the ruling and opposition parties, but the main opposition Liberty Korea Party has said that it will not join if the meeting is held in Pyongyang,” he added.
Critics doubt the Liberty Korea Party and minor opposition Bareunmirae Party would soften their stance.
The two parties declined the Seoul government’s invitation to visit Pyongyang for the 2007 summit celebrations. They have also been preventing a parliamentary committee from deliberating on a government motion for the ratification of the April summit agreement.
The summit deal should be passed by the committee before it can be put to a plenary session vote.
Meanwhile, SPA Chairman Choe did not attend last week’s meeting of politicians from the two Koreas, citing health reasons.
The SPA is the North’s primary legislative body, but the Presidium of the SPA holds more authority as the highest organ of state power. Kim Yong-nam, the North’s nominal head of state, is the president of the Presidium of the SPA.
Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said the North may have to consider who will attend in Choe’s place if he is not able to join the proposed parliamentary meeting.
The inter-Korean parliamentary meeting has been on the discussion table for nearly three decades, with the North first proposing to the South such a gathering in 1985. But at the time, the sides failed to narrow their differences over a nonaggression pledge and the talks eventually fizzled out.
By Jung Min-kyung & Joint Press Corps (firstname.lastname@example.org)