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Official Says Roh-Kim Summit Possible

Posted February. 17, 2006 03:11,   


According to the transcript of a meeting between former Unification Minister Chung Dong-young and Japanese reporters on Wednesday, Chung was quoted as saying, “A summit meeting between President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il will probably take place in 2006.”

In response to requests for an explanation from the reporters, Chung replied, “During a meeting with Kim Jong Il, we were able to agree on a summit. We are taking Kim’s word very seriously.”

According to Chung, Kim said, “Let’s get on with this. Let’s do this. We are flexible on where to hold the meeting. All that is left is action.”

A high-ranking Cheong Wa Dae official recently remarked that a second South-North summit meeting was on the official agenda of the meeting between Chung and Kim.

In an interview with YTN, a Korean news network, Minister of Unification Lee Jong-Seok said, “I believe that the North will agree to talks after evaluating their situation. We cannot rule out a summitmeeting happening before the year is out.”

But after Japanese press began broadcasting that the summit will be held within the year, Cheong Wa Dae and Chung clarified that they had merely conveyed to the North that they were committed to a second summit, and that Kim replied that he wants it to be held before the end of the year.

Still, it is now certain that there have been attempts at the highest level to set a date for a summit.

“Clamor in the East, Attack in the West?”-

Some say that ex-president Kim Dae-Jung’s visit to the North in April could be another step toward a summit this year.

Observers say that this is the reason why the ex-president wants to visit the North in April. An expert on South-North relations says that the ex-president has to visit the North no later than April in order to be able to schedule it after local elections and in time for Independence Day.

A government official denied those statements, however, saying that there are plenty of official and unofficial ties to the North, and that there is no reason to rely on ex-president Kim to cement the summit. He says that the essence of Kim’s visit to the North is an attempt to mend the worsening relationship between the ruling party and the ex-president by showing the administration supports the ex-president’s visit to the North in April.

“The Summit Will Be Held in 2006”-

The consensus is that the summit will be held this year. If it is not held by this year, there will be only one year left for the Roh administration to hold it before the election. With the presidential campaign looming, the Grand National Party will accuse the ruling party of using South-North relations to their advantage, and voters may have misgivings.

That is why most politicians think the summit will be held on August 15, Korea’s Independence Day. It is reasonable to assume that a North-South meeting could be used as a reconciliation tool between the ruling party and other factions, and for that reconciliation to affect the presidential elections. Politicians are hoping major agreements can be made one by one after a summit.

The most likely location for the summit is not Seoul, the originally agreed upon spot. Dorasan Station, a place connected to the North by rail, and Jeju Island are two possible locations.

The agenda for the summit will most likely be unification, nuclear weapons, economic aid, and the easing of military tensions. Academics predict that there will be talks about a loose form of federation.

But some predict a North Korean-style “Marshall Plan” in return for the North’s commitment.

The Grand National Party is apprehensive about the summit actually taking place, while observers say the North wants a summit meeting because it wants economic aid and a progressive South Korean administration for five more years.

Eom Ho-seong, the director for planning and management for the Grand National Party, said, “The master plan for the summit meeting has already been drawn up.” There are even rumors that Cheong Wa Dae has a separate team working on the matter.

The Grand National Party is considering its next move. They cannot oppose the meeting, because then the public will criticize it. It still emphasizes that the administration should notify the people about the timing, conditions, and topics of the meeting, because there may be backdoor dealings during the negotiation process.

Yong-Gwan Jung yongari@donga.com taewon_ha@donga.com