By Charles Park
On this 15th anniversary of the historic June 15, 2000 Joint Declaration, North Korea (DPRK) called for improved dialogue with South Korea (ROK). Over the years, DPRK has repeatedly called for ROK to honor both the June 15th Joint Declaration and the October 4, 2007 Joint Declaration. They represent the two landmark achievements of the ROK’s Sunshine Policy under the progressive ROK governments of Presidents Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo-hyun.
Apparently, neither state codified the agreements. ROK’s succeeding conservative governments of Presidents Lee Myung Bak and Park Geun-hye, however, have effectively ignored the agreements. Likely at least partly, as a result, DPRK has been harshly critical of President Lee and President Park going so far as to impolitely call Lee a “rat” and Park a “prostitute.”
If the ROK had honored the agreements, could both Koreas have avoided the killing at Mt. Gumgang, sinking of ROK navy vessel Cheonan (if DPRK indeed did it), and the DPRK Yeonpyeong shelling? It’s a question nobody asks. But the October 4th Joint Declaration in fact specifically called for a special peace zone in the West Sea NLL region. The Kaesong Industrial Complex is the only significant product of the Sunshine Policy to remain, which ROK is unwilling to close as now there are many ROK businesses profiting from the venture.
In response to DPRK’s expression of interest in dialogue, ROK has reportedly said that it honored the “spirit of the agreements” without acknowledging their request for the dialogue. Maybe that’s the best we can hope for if ROK is unable to honor the literal terms of the agreements.