Mr CHO Jaichel Special Correspondent
ON April 27, 2018, President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had a day-long summit meeting in the “Peace House” building at the Panmunjeom.
The venue, Panmunjeom, is located in the DMZ (Demilitarised Zone) and has been regarded as a symbol of division of the Korean Peninsula.
The eyes of the entire world were turned to the Panmunjeom when President Moon greeted the North Korean leader who crossed the military demarcation line and became the first North Korean leader who set his foot in the South Korean territory after the 1950-1953 Korean War.
Major news media outlets from around the world reported about this inter-Korean summit as breaking news in real-time throughout the day with excitement and expectation.
Right after taking office in May 2017, President Moon put forward his peace initiative to North Korea and the international society.
In his speech at the Kerber Foundation, Berlin, on July 6, 2017, President Moon made it clear that the South Korean government did not wish for North Korea’s collapse, and would neither work towards any kind of unification through absorption nor pursue an artificial unification.
At the same time, President Moon presented four practical proposals to the North with a view to alleviating the tension on the peninsula and making a breakthrough in the inter-Korean relations: holding reunion events for the separated families; North Korea’s participation in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics (from February 9-25, 2018); mutually halting acts of hostility around the Military Demarcation Line (MDL); and, resumption of inter-Korean dialogue.
Unfortunately, North Korea turned a deaf ear to this peace gesture and conducted the sixth nuclear test on September 3, 2017 and, launched a number of ballistic missiles.
Nevertheless President Moon did not withdraw his peace initiative but rather enhanced his efforts to persuade his North Korean counterpart amid the increasing tension on the Korean Peninsula while closely cooperating with the international community.
President Moon’s efforts showed a sign of fruition when North Korea decided to participate in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Taking advantage of this international sporting event, the two leaders exchanged special envoys and laid the groundwork for the inter-Korean summit.
Through the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics the Korean people also reaffirmed their strong desire for peace and reunion of the peninsula and provided an extraordinarily firm support to the peace efforts by President Moon.
This is the trajectory of the dramatic developments that happened on the Korean Peninsula during the past year.
After hours-long discussions, the two leaders signed “the Panmunjeom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula”, and announced it before the 80 million Korean people and the whole world through a first-time-ever joint press conference.
This was a very historical moment when President Moon’s peace initiative for denuclearisation and permanent peace of the Korean Peninsula was entering into its stride.
In the preamble of the Panmunjeom Declaration, the two leaders declared that “there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and thus a new era of peace has begun”.
The two leaders also confirmed that realising a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula through complete denuclearisation is the common goal of the two Koreas.
The declaration contained very bold and proactive contents and measures regarding bringing a swift end to the longstanding division and confrontation between the two Koreas, opening a new era of national reconciliation, peace and prosperity, and improving and cultivating inter-Korean relations in a more active manner.
The two leaders agreed to facilitate comprehensive and groundbreaking advancement in the inter-Korean relations under the principle of determining the destiny of the Korean nation on their own accord and to fully implement all existing agreements and declarations adopted between the two Koreas thus far.
They also agreed to establish a joint liaison office with resident representatives of both sides in the North Korean city of Gaeseong (about 55km northwest of Seoul), and encourage more active cooperation, exchanges, visits and contacts at all levels.
This year, the two Koreas will jointly participate in the 2018 Asian Games to be held in Indonesia in August and proceed with reunion programmes for the separated families on the occasion of the National Liberation Day of August 15.
Secondly, they agreed to make joint efforts to alleviate the acute military tension and practically eliminate the danger of war on the peninsula.
They decided to completely cease all hostile acts against each other in all domains including land, air and sea and, to transform the demilitarised zone into a peace zone.
The two Koreas will also come up with a practical scheme to turn the areas around the Northern Limit Lint in the West Sea into a maritime peace zone in order to prevent accidental military clashes and guarantee safe fishing activities. The two Koreas will hold frequent meetings between military authorities, including the Defence Ministers Meeting, in order to immediately discuss and solve military issues between them. The first military talks at the rank of general will be held in May this year.
Thirdly, the two leaders agreed to actively cooperate to establish a permanent and solid peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. Specifically, they agreed to strictly abide by the Non-Aggression Agreement, carry out disarmament in a phased manner.
They also agreed to actively pursue multilateral meetings with relevant countries such as the US and China with a view to turning the armistice into a peace treaty and establishing a permanent and solid peace regime on the peninsula.
Finally, the two leaders agreed to have regular meetings and direct telephone conversations to discuss vital issues to the nation and strengthen mutual trust. In particular, President Moon agreed to visit the North Korean capital city of Pyeongyang this fall.
Through the inter-Korean Summit and the Panmunjeom Declaration, the two leaders established a framework for a sustainable and irreversible development of the inter-Korean relations.
The leaders around the world are sending their congratulatory messages to the successful conclusion of the summit and expressing high hopes for improvement of the inter-Korean relations and denuclearisation and lasting peace of the Korean Peninsula.
It is also true that there are still a lot of tasks to be done until we achieve complete denuclearisation and lasting peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
However, nobody will deny that the inter-Korean summit marks a meaningful beginning of the process. The entire world is expecting that the inter-Korean summit and the Panmunjeom Declaration, which set an important milestone in the improvement of the inter-Korean relations, will also serve as a stepping stone for the future events for the lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula including the first-time-ever US-North Korea summit to be held in the near future.
It is reported that the scene of the two leaders walking together on the footbridge located in the DMZ is regarded as the most impressive scene of the inter-Korean Summit among the Korean people.
Many Korean people think that the scene shows the reality of the Korean Peninsula and the path which the two Koreas should walk together towards the peace and reunification in a very symbolic manner.
I sincerely hope the two Koreas will be linked and reunited through a bridge of dialogue and peace. Personally, the inter-Korean summit gave me even more special meaning since the summit day marked one year anniversary of my arrival to Zimbabwe.
I sincerely hope the peace initiative of President Moon will gain more momentum and achieve its desired goal of denuclearisation and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.
I also hope that the Zimbabwean people continue to support this peace process.
In the future, Panmunjeom will be remembered not as a symbol of division of the Korean Peninsula but as a symbol of peace and reunification of the peninsula.
Mr CHO Jaichel is the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Zimbabwe