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Unification Ministry rejects UNC’s request to use Freedom House

Unification Ministry rejects UNC’s request to use Freedom House

Posted July. 21, 2020 07:46,   

Updated July. 21, 2020 07:46


South Korea’s Unification Ministry declined the request from the United Nations Command (UNC) to access the Freedom House at the peace village of Panmunjom to hold the 67th anniversary of the July 27 ceasefire agreement on the Korean War.

According to government sources on Monday, the UNC filed a request with the South Korean Unification Ministry to hold an event celebrating the anniversary of the Korean War Armistice, which will be organized by Gen. Robert Abrams, the commander of the UNC, at the Freedom House, but the ministry refused to accommodate it. Reportedly, the ministry’s stance was that it is not in a position to provide such cooperation, given the current status of inter-Korean relations characterized by the explosion of the liaison office at Kaesong Industrial Park last month.

While the access to the DMZ is under the UNC’s control, the purview of the Freedom House lies with the Unification Ministry in Seoul as it is a building that belongs to South Korea closest to the MDL within the village. The Freedom House was the venue where U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had a summit meeting in July last year.

The UNC said Seoul’s refusal is rather unusual given that the events have been held every year at the Freedom House since 2013. Some pointed out that the Unification Ministry is trying not to highlight Korean War events for the North. It has reported that the event will take place outdoors inside the Panmunjom area.

Others say the perennial conflict between Seoul and the UNC over the access to the DMZ is rearing its ugly head again. In 2018, a joint investigation into an inter-Korean railway project was called off as the UNC declined Seoul’s access to the MDL for its human traffic and supplies. Last year, the UNC turned down the request by the delegation from the German government to visit the DMZ, citing safety concerns. Pundits raise the speculation that the latest announcement by the ministry is a tit-for-tat move for this incident.

Kyu-Jin Shin newjin@donga.com · Ji-Sun Choi aurinko@donga.com