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Korea’s Independence Day 2005 Is as Feverish as 60 Years Ago

Korea’s Independence Day 2005 Is as Feverish as 60 Years Ago

Posted August. 15, 2005 03:05,   


The North Korean delegation that visited South Korea yesterday to participate in the 8.15 national unification festival worshipped at the National Cemetery (located in Dongjak-dong, Dongjak-gu, Seoul) for the first time since the division of the Korean Peninsula.

The delegation composed of 32 figures from its government and private organizations including head of delegation Kim Ki-nam (the secretary of the North’s Workers Party) visited the national cemetery at 3:00 p.m. yesterday as the first event of their daily schedule and stood for several seconds in silent tribute in front of memorial monument, but they neither laid flowers nor burned incense.

In regard to this, a source from the government said, “Today’s worship procedure was decided in liaison officers’ meetings held in August 5 and 9 at Panmunjom,” adding, “North Korea’s convention on worship services was largely reflected this time. Rather than looking into the meaning of their visiting to the cemetery, we will value their visit itself.”

Meanwhile, conservative civic groups such as Freedom Builders and the Anti-nuclear and Anti-Kim National Council took street near the cemetery from the early morning, shouting, “North Korea must confess and make an apology on its past terror arracks and contribution to the Korean War.”

In fact, as the bus carrying the delegation passed through the front gate of the National Cemetery, one man who was assumed to be aged around the 40s and a member of a conservative civic group rushed the bus after crossing a police restriction line and shouted a phrase that condemned the North. The man was arrested by police on the spot.

Before their arrival, another North Korean government delegation (17 persons), a private delegation (100 persons), and the men’s and women’s national soccer teams (65 persons) arrived at Incheon International Airport at 10:00 a.m. the same day on two chartered planes of Koryo Airlines.

They saw the opening event of national festival’s 60-year anniversary and soccer game between the North and the South, which was held at Seoul World Cup Stadium, Sangam-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul at 5:00 p.m.

The delegations of the North and the South are scheduled to announce a “Written Petition to Our People” at a main conference which is being held in the Jangchung Gymnasium at 9:00 a.m. today. The private delegation of the North, in the other hand, is scheduled to visit Seodaemun Prison at 10:30 a.m. and issue a statement to Japan.

Meanwhile, the North Korean government delegation including Kim Ki-nam, the head of the delegation, is slated to visit the National Assembly at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow and meet Kim Won-gi, chairman of the National Assembly. Even though it is known that they are going to pay a visit to President Roh Moo-hyun on Wednesday, whether or not they deliver North Korea’s National Defense Committee Chairman Kim Jong-il’s letter to President Roh is still up in the air.

On Wednesday, the North Korean government delegation and the private delegation, after finishing respective visits to Gyeongju and the Haengju mountain fortress wall in the morning, are slated to return to Pyongyang at 5:50 p.m. through Incheon International Airport.

Jae-Myoung Lee taewon_ha@donga.com egija@donga.com