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Pro-North Unification Group Emerges

Posted November. 01, 2005 03:01,   


The headquarters of the “Movement to Make Our Nation One,” better known as the Gyeore Hana movement, is rapidly emerging as South Korea’s window to the inter-Korean exchanges recently being led by North Korea.

This group is closely associated with the “Unification Coalition for the Implementation of the June 15 Joint South-North Korea Declaration and Peace in the Korean Peninsula”, a unification group that emphasizes nationalism and wages anti-American activities.

The Unification Coalition created controversy by criticizing the recent EU draft resolution on North Korea’s human rights, saying, “It is a vicious political slander that lacks even basic facts.”

As a result, there are worries among civic groups that amid the ongoing exchange efforts with and assistance to North Korea, inter-Korean exchange and humanitarian assistance might by sidelined by rising ideological conflicts.

The Rapid Emergence of Gyeore Hana—

Gyeore Hana is a non-profit civic group created in February last year by various progressive groups members such as the National Alliance for Democracy and Reunification of Korea and the South Korean Headquarters for the Alliance of Korean People for National Unification.

Gyeore Hana gathered 3,847 members in South Korea and sent them to Pyongyang 16 times in one month starting September 26. They watched the mass gymnastics show “Arirang” in Pyongyang, performed in commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the North Korean Workers’ Party, and visited the birthplace of Chairman Kim Il Sung in Mangyongdae, Pyongyang.

The number of people sent by Gyeore Hana, 3,847 is over half of the 7,203 that visited North Korea and watched Arirang. It is the largest number of visitors sent to North Korea by a single organization. South Korea’s visits to watch the Arirang performance ended in late October.

Gyeore Hana officials started to reside in Yanggakdo Hotel, Pyongyang, since late September, opened direct phone lines to South Korea, and coordinated the visiting schedule of South Korean visitors. It is very rare for North Korean authorities to permit the establishment of phone lines to South Korea for individual groups.

North Korean authorities used the same line on October 6 to tell their South Korean counterparts that the Workers` Party Foundation Anniversary invitations they extended to South Korean civilian representatives were canceled. Although the attendance of South Korean civic groups was arranged by the “South Korean Preparation Committee of the Implementation of the June 15 Joint Declaration” (June 15 Preparation Committee), North Korea used Gyeore Hana as its communication window. It is reported that the committee asked North Korea for an explanation.

An official working at an organization that engages North Korea said, “The Unification Coalition also belongs to the June 15 Preparation Committee, and I think that North Korean authorities, knowing well the relationship between the Unification Coalition and Gyeore Hana, used Gyeore Hana’s phone line.”

There are rumors among groups that engage with North Korea that the South Korean government its friendly to Gyeore Hana. It is reported that Gyeore Hana’s Standing Representative Choi Byung-mo, a lawyer, is a close friend with key members of South Korea’s ruling party.

The Relationship between Two Groups—

A government official overseeing North Korean affairs said, “You can view Gyeore Hana as an organization that is in fact being managed by the Unification Coalition.”

The members of the group also support this view. The Unification Coalition’s Standing Representative Council Chairman Han Sang-ryul is a joint representative of Gyeore Hana, and Unification Standing Executive Committee Chairman Han Chung-mok and former Chief of Secretariat Kim Yi-gyung are the management committee chairman and secretary general of Gyeore Hana, respectively.

Myoung-Gun Lee gun43@donga.com