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Seoul to address N. Korea leader as ‘State Affairs Commission chairman’

Seoul to address N. Korea leader as ‘State Affairs Commission chairman’

Posted April. 06, 2018 09:02,   

Updated April. 06, 2018 09:02


The South Korean government has decided to officially address North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “chairman of the State Affairs Commission” ahead of the upcoming inter-Korean summit scheduled for April 27. The decision indicates Seoul’s acceptance of Pyongyang’s use of that particular title for external affairs among various titles he holds.

An official at Seoul’s Unification Ministry said Thursday that the official titles of the leaders of the two Koreas at the upcoming summit are “president” for South Korean President Moon Jae-in and “State Affairs Commission chairman” for the North Korean leader. A senior official at Seoul’s presidential office Cheong Wa Dae also confirmed that the “State Affairs Commission chairman” is correct. However, the South Korean government was reserved as to whether to address Kim’s wife, Ri Sol Ju, as “madame,” saying it needs to be confirmed.

The North’s state media address Kim Jon Un as “chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army,” putting the party chairmanship at the front. Therefore, the South Korean has been referring to him as “Chairman Kim Jong Un,” without specifying the organization of the chairmanship. Since Kim’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, delivered Kim Jong Un’s letter signed as the “State Affairs Commission chairman” when she visited the South in February, the South Korean government has been using that title. Seoul clarified its position on Kim Jong Un’s title on Thursday, when the two Koreas held working-level talks for the upcoming summit.

Separately, attention is being drawn to whether the North Korean leader will inspect the South Korean military’s honor guard on April 27 when he visits the Joint Security Area for the summit. At the time of the first and second inter-Korean summits held in 2000 and 2007, respectively, then-South Korean Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun inspected the North Korean honor guard.

Kim’s inspection of the South Korean honor guard would not violate the Armistice Treaty and is possible if the United Nations Command provides working-level cooperation. Considering the two Koreas’ practices of minimizing the exposure of their security forces at times of inter-Korean talks at the truce village of Panmunjom, some people say that the North could be reluctant to see a large number of South Korean honor guard troops.

In-Chan Hwang hic@donga.com · Hyo-Ju Son hjson@donga.com