|1. Successful South-North Summit in Pyeongyang June 13-15 |
The Administration of President Kim Dae-jung has consistently pursued reconciliation and cooperation with Communist North Korea since its inception in February 1998. The Korean Peninsula is now heading for sustained peace and stability following the historic summit talks between President Kim and North Korea's National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-il on June 13-15. The engagement policy, dubbed Sunshine Policy, has contributed to promoting substantial inter-Korean cooperation.
For example, there has been a sharp increase in people-to-people exchanges, acceleration of the Kumgangsan (Diamond Mountains) resort development project, an increase in inter-Korean trade and activation of processing of light industry products in the North for shipment to the South. It is believed that North Korea agreed to hold the first-ever South-North summit, Convinced that South Korea has a genuine desire for better relations with the North.
The success in the summit in Pyongyang opened the way for increased contacts in all sectors, including regular talks between high-level officials of the two sides and a resolution of the issue of the families separated in the two sides of the peninsula. The summit also laid the groundwork for the formation of a South-North economic community. Chairman Kim Jong-il promised during the Pyongyang summit to make a return visit to Seoul. In accordance with the June 15 South-North Joint Declaration signed by the two leaders, Ministerial Talks were held three times, the first in Seoul, July 29-31, the second in Pyongyang, August 29-September 1 and the third on Jeju Island a month later. In another step toward inter-Korean reconciliation, the Republic of Korea (ROK) returned 63 North Korean long-term prisoners to the North on September 2.
The Pyongyang summit took a comprehensive approach to ending the Cold-War confrontation on the peninsula. An international consensus is being created on the need to settle Korean issues peacefully through close consultation with the United States and Japan as well as China and Russia. The summit defused concern over a possible crisis in Korea and opened the way for a resolution of the North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile development programs through dialogue. The summit provided a catalyst for the United States and Japan to shift their North Korea policy toward an improvement of ties.
The summit contributed to the effort of encouraging North Korea to open up and change. North Korea is accelerating its diplomatic open-door policy with the establishment of full diplomatic ties with Australia and the Philippines, in addition to the improvement of relations with the United States and Japan. North Korea is also moving to join various international organizations, including the Asian Development Bank (ADB). It joined the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) on July 27. North Korea has also agreed to designate Kumgangsan as a special development zone.
In the wake of the Pyongyang summit, the approval rating for the Government's North Korea policy has soared. A survey, conducted days after the Pyongyang summit, showed that 96.7 percent of the respondents replied that the summit was successful and that 78.7 percent welcomed North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's plan to visit Seoul.
2. Sharp Increases in South-North Exchanges and Cooperation
While some 2,508 South Koreans visited the North in about 10 years from 1989, a total of 13,249 visited the North in the two years and six months following the inauguration of the Kim Dae-jung Administration on February 25, 1998. The latter figure is about 5 times that of the previous 10 years.
Kumgangsan Tourism Project
Between December 1998, when the Kumgangsan (Diamond Mountains) tourism program was launched, and June 2000, more than 260,000 South Koreans toured the scenic mountain on the east coast of North Korea.
Sports and Culture
Goodwill soccer matches were held between South and North Korean workers in Pyongyang in August 1999, and basketball matches in Pyongyang in September 1999 and in Seoul three months later. Two concerts were held with a wish for peace and unification in December 1999 and in early 2000. A Pyongyang students and youth art troupe performed in Seoul in May 2000 and the Pyongyang Circus Troupe performed in Seoul from late May to early June. The North Korean National Symphony Orchestra held joint concerts with the KBS Symphony Orchestra in Seoul in August.
3. Reunion of Families Separated in the South and the North
An increasing number of separated family members in the South are meeting their kin in the North or in third countries, including China, and have succeeded in confirming whether their northern relatives are still alive or not. In the eight years from 1990, 850 South Koreans confirmed the fate of their northern family members while more than 1,100 southerners have located their northern kin over the past two and a half years. From 1990-1997, 155 South Koreans met their northern kin whereas 377 southerners met family members in the North between 1998 and late June 2000.
Since 1998, the ROK Government has provided financial support for the efforts of separated family members to find and meet their northern relatives. From March 2000, the subsidies for a family's effort to confirm the fate of northern kin were increased from 400,000 won to 800,000 won. Subsidies for each reunion with northern kin were increased from 800,000 won to 1.8 million won. The Government provided 231 families with a total of 162 million won in such subsidies in 1999 and 160 families with 135 million won in the first six months of this year.
The South and the North agreed to arrange reunions of separated family members and to install a permanent meeting place for them at the end of the Red Cross talks on June 30, 2000, paving the way for regular reunions of separated families. In accordance with the agreement, 100 separated family members from the South and 100 from the North visited Seoul and Pyongyang to meet their relatives for four days from August 15, 2000. The South and the North held Red Cross talks from September 20 to discuss future reunions and establishing a regular meeting place for the separated families.