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Unification Minister calls for NK to fulfill inter-Korean agreements

Unification Minister Lee In-young and officials walk along a blue bridge in the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone on Wednesday. The footbridge is where South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un took a stroll during their first summit on April 27, 2018. (Joint Press Corps-Yonhap)
Unification Minister Lee In-young and officials walk along a blue bridge in the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone on Wednesday. The footbridge is where South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un took a stroll during their first summit on April 27, 2018. (Joint Press Corps-Yonhap)

Unification Minister Lee In-young urged North Korea to fulfill inter-Korean agreements from 2018 during his visit to the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom on Wednesday.

Lee’s visit -- his first since taking office in July -- occurred a few days ahead of the second anniversary of the Pyongyang Joint Declaration reached by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the North’s capital on Sept. 19, 2018, which aimed to reduce military tensions and strengthen cooperation.

“The promise needs to be fulfilled and agreements be completed through implementation,” Lee said at Panmunjom, using the Latin phrase “pacta sunt servanda,” meaning “agreements must be kept.”

“In order to complete the determination of the two leaders and restart the time for the South and the North, joint efforts between the two Koreas should be continued,” he said.

Stressing that the two Koreas pledged to cooperate in 2018 for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Lee added that there were areas where the two sides could make progress, beyond the stalled denuclearization talks between the US and North Korea.

To implement the joint declaration, Lee reiterated that Seoul will start with what he describes as a “small approach,” cooperation on humanitarian matters and other cross-border exchanges. Since taking office, Lee has called for inter-Korean cooperation in areas such as public health, especially as the two countries are battling the novel coronavirus.

In particular, he vowed to resume the suspended tours of Panmunjom and the DMZ Peace Trail in October, once the COVID-19 pandemic situation eases. “We hope to hold a small-scale reunion of families” separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, he said, adding that Seoul remains ready to go ahead with the reunion once the North responds. “We expect the North to respond to fulfill the inter-Korean agreement, which is the promises between the two leaders.”

Inter-Korean relations have remained deadlocked since the US-North Korea nuclear talks went quiet last year, after a summit in Vietnam between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ended without a deal. The two sides failed to narrow their differences over the extent of sanctions relief that should be provided in exchange for the North giving up its nuclear capabilities.

Since then, cross-border exchanges have stalled, with tensions growing this June when Pyongyang demolished an inter-Korean liaison office in the North’s border town of Kaesong, retaliating for the launch of anti-Pyongyang leaflets over the inter-Korean border by civic groups in the South.

While expressing regret over the North’s demolition of a joint liaison office, Lee assessed that the North’s Kim has made efforts to prevent the escalation of tension between the two Koreas by putting off military action against the South.

“I believe the North, in its own way, has the will to implement what was agreed upon in the joint declaration,” he said, citing as evidence the removal of the North’s propaganda loudspeakers and the fact that it dropped plans to send anti-Seoul leaflets across the border.

By Ahn Sung-mi and Joint Press Corps (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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