North Korea has proposed to hold a joint event with South Korea to commemorate the thirteenth anniversary of a landmark inter-Korean declaration, South Korean media reported on Thursday.
A South Korean civic group in charge of the implementation of the June 15 declaration said its North Korean counterpart sent a fax proposing to hold a joint ceremony to mark the day at either Mount Kumgang or in the city of Kaesong in the North, both of which are sites of suspended inter-Korean cooperation projects, Seoul’s Yonhap news agency reported.
“The only way to recover North-South relations and open the gate for autonomous reunification lie in the [efforts] to implement the joint declaration,” Yonhap quoted the South Korean group as saying.
“One of the reasons behind the North proposing Kaesong [as a site to hold the celebration] rests on the North's hope to indirectly express its willingness to resume the Kaesong Industrial Complex,” an official at the group told Yonhap.
The declaration signed on June 15, 2000, between North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, pledged to jointly promote economic and cultural cooperation and the reunification of the two Koreas.
The two countries had annually held joint events to mark the anniversary before former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s administration refused to honor or implement the declaration and suspended the celebrations in 2009.
Lee had indicated a cautious approach to the implementation project, saying that “feasibility studies” were necessary to review whether they were economically sound or not, citing the “financial burdens” associated with it.
An official at the South Korean Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, said the government will respond to Pyongyang’s proposal after considering the overall conditions of inter-Korean relations, Yonhap reported.
Ever since the implementation of the declaration was suspended, Pyongyang has demanded that South Korea reinstate the agreement, warning that there could be no progress in inter-Korean relations unless the Lee government did so.
Operations at the Kaesong industrial complex, the last major symbol of cooperation between the Koreas, was shut down in April after Pyongyang pulled out all of its laborers, amid simmering bilateral tensions that followed Pyongyang’s nuclear test in February.
Established in 2004, Kaesong reported a turnover of $469.5 million last year, and was a major source of hard currency for North Korea through taxes and revenues from its portion of workers' wages.