Dal Korean Overseas Information Service in data 16 giugno 2000
Remarks by President Kim Dae-jung on Returning Home
from the Inter-Korean Summit in Pyongyang
June 15, 2000
I have just returned home after completing the historic visit to North Korea. I am pleased to be back with my tasks finished as planned. I appreciate very much that the nation supported me, skipping sleep so that I could finish my tasks during my visit to the North.
A new age has dawned for our nation. We have reached a turning point so that we can put an end to the history of territorial division of 55 years. It is my hope that my visit to the North has contributed to peace on the Korean Peninsula, exchanges and cooperation between the South and North as well as to the unification of our homeland.
National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-il's welcome and hospitality was beyond my expectations. He went to the Pyongyang airport to welcome me on arrival and also on my departure. In the course of the talks, there were times when I was desperate, but I tried my level best with faithfulness. Eventually, Chairman Kim extended substantial cooperation, and we were able to reach the agreements we are dedicating to the nation.
When I arrived in the northern capital city, as many as 600,000 citizens came out to greet me. When I was returning, 300,000 to 400,000 Pyongyang citizens turned out. That means that 1 million citizens hit the street on this occasion, and they said that it was the largest turnout in the history of the city. I am very grateful for the welcome which I think is an expression of love as members of one ethnic family. With you, I thank the Pyongyang citizens very much with applause.
The summit was supported by the most encouraging world reaction. All the countries of the world supported it virtually without a single exception. Also I would like to express my gratitude for the support given by the press. In Pyongyang, I watched and read reports by our TV and newspapers. That kind of press support is unprecedented. I wonder if I really deserve that kind of support, but I appreciate it very much. I take it as evidence of the press's fervent interest in reconciliation and cooperation within the nation.
In the summit, I told my counterpart the two of us have responsibilities to the nation and the world. I said that if we fail we will be inflicting tremendous disservice on them. I also said that if we succeed, we will bring about great development and a turning point in the history of the world. I approached the summit with a sense of mission and determination to succeed. At every opportunity, I pledged to myself that I would engage in the summit with utmost faithfulness and wisdom. Our other official and non-official delegates, in their meetings with their counterparts, did their best to further develop the bilateral relationship and offer assistance to my work.
However, more than anything else, the summit meeting itself was the most important. I found that Pyongyang, too, was our land, indeed. The Pyongyang people are the same as us, the same nation sharing the same blood. Regardless of what they have been saying and acting outwardly, they have deep love and a longing for their compatriots in the South. If you talk with them, you notice that right away. That is quite natural because we have been a homogeneous nation for thousands of years. We lived as a unified nation for 1,300 years before we were divided 55 years ago against our will. It is impossible for us to continue to live separated physically and spiritually. I was able to reconfirm this fact first-hand during this visit. I have returned with the conviction that, sooner or later, we will become reconciled with each other, cooperate, and finally get reunified.
I told Chairman Kim, in the waning years of the Choson Kingdom, when the people should have united and hastened modernization, the country was splintered and turned away from modernization. In the end, we earned the sorrow of losing the country, resulting in 35 years of Japanese colonial rule, the division of the country on August 15 (1945), the Korean War and the confrontation across barbed wire. Thus, didn't they give their descendants 100 years of punishment? The world is now entering into an age of the greatest revolutionary change in the history of mankind, which is called the age of knowledge and information.
At a time when the world is also entering into borderless and boundless economic competition, how can we survive if we who are one people waste our energy against each other? On the other hand, even if we cannot unify the country right away, we can open the skies, roads, harbors, we can come and go freely, cooperate with each other, develop the economy together, and have exchanges in culture and sports. Wouldn't the Korean educational tradition and cultural creativity be assets in the age of knowledge in the 21st century? It is not an age of imperialism when the big four powers rule us. On the contrary, the big four powers are our markets, and we can take advantage of them. At this time, if we don't become alert and the South and North don't cooperate with each other but fight, instead, what would be our fate? Therefore, whatever happens, we should not stick to the ideas of communizing the South or absorbing the North. Instead, let us coexist and proceed on the path toward unification. At this time of best opportunities, which is the 21st century, I stressed to the North that we must forge a first-rate nation on the Korean Peninsula. I would like to tell you that they expressed agreement.
My fellow citizens,
Even though I am telling you all this, it does not at all mean that everything went smoothly, and there is nothing to worry about. This is only the beginning. I am only saying that I came back after looking at the possibilities. It will take time; we need patience. And we need devotion. We also need to look at things from the point of view of the other side. There should not be the slightest wavering in our resolve to maintain national security and the sovereignty of the Republic of Korea. But we must ultimately go on the path toward unification by solving one thing at the time, solving the easiest things first while cooperating with each other and giving consideration to the other side.
I told the North that we should say everything we wanted to say to each other. The gist of what I wanted to say was also written down and handed to them. We talked about nuclear and missile issues. The issue of the U.S. forces stationed in the South also cropped up. The issue of the National Security Law was discussed. Dialogue was very useful, and I was able to confirm that there are things that have a bright prospect for resolution.
Now, I would like to offer a few brief words on the content of the South-North Joint Declaration. First was to resolve the problems of the people independently by ourselves. This was contained in the July 4 Joint Communique. However, I told the people of the North. It is a matter of course that our problems should be solved by ourselves. But it was issued 28 years ago and yet nothing has been achieved. It talked about independence, peace and unity of the people, but nothing has been achieved.
Second, in February 1992, the South and North produced the Basic Agreement in which the two sides promised reconciliation, nonaggression, exchanges and cooperation, and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. But this Basic Agreement, despite all the detailed provisions, has failed to produce any practical result, as did the July 4 Joint Communique that defined the basic principles of reunification. What we need is practical action. The South-North summit meeting this time was a dialogue for practical action. If we repeat saying such words as independence, unification and peace, without any practical moves, the peoples of the world would not trust us any more. Thus, we agreed upon some concrete matters in Item 2 and below, which involve practical tasks. The second paragraph is concerned with a South-North confederation which we have proposed as the formula for reunification. The confederation concept requires maintaining two governments for the two sides as they are now and create a conference of ministers and an assembly with which the two sides can jointly solve problems step by step.
In 1980, North Korea also proposed a confederation system. But this formula would give the central government the functions of diplomacy and defense with the local government exercising only the power of internal administration. That is a totally impracticable idea. In recent days, North Korea has revised this idea and has accepted the notion of allowing the local governments the right to diplomacy and national defense, calling it a “loose form of confederation.” This is practically identical with what we have been advocating as the unification formula. Because the two ideas have common elements, we have agreed to hold talks between representatives of the two sides with scholars and other experts joining in the discussions. I believe this will provide a great momentum in searching for practical agreement in the history of the nation's unification movement.
Third, the South and the North will exchange groups of separated family members around August 15 and will solve the question of unconverted Communist prisoners serving long-term sentences (in the South). What I'd like to tell you here is that the focus is the problem of the North Korean refugees and separated families. At the airport today, I talked with Chairman Kim Jong-il about this issue.
I told him to do boldly as they used to say in the North by August 15. Then, I said I would seek to solve the problem of the unconverted prisoners they are talking about and others through consultation with the people.
I told him to do well first, and we agreed to do so.
The Red Cross will start to work right now this month, June. I told him that upon arriving in Seoul I would request the Red Cross to contact the North, and Chairman Kim agreed.
We are unable to know how many people will be reunited with their separated family members, but I report to you here that the first batch of visitors will be considerable as agreed on between the two sides.
Fourth, we agreed to promote the balanced development of the national economy through cooperation and increase cooperation in all fields--social, cultural, sports, public health, environmental and so on. It is true that the North Korean economy is difficult. It is true that our cooperation will be helpful to the North. Both the North and the South will enjoy great benefits when we construct railroads, solve the power shortage, and build roads, port facilities and communication networks in the North, and when we advance into the North by building industrial complexes.
That's not all. Why can't our trains go to London or Paris? They can't because the Kyongui Railroad Line (Seoul-Sinuiju in the North) and the Kyongwon Line (Seoul-Wonsan in the North) are cut. In Manchuria, trains can go there freely, can't they? In case of Kyongui Line, only 25 kilometers of rails are cut. If we connect them, our trains can go. Transportation costs will be reduced by 30 percent and the period of transport will be cut drastically. If we agree with the North to solve this problem, we can drive on without a stop to Europe. If so, there will appear a silk road in the new millennium and the day will come when both the South and the North will be able to enjoy great economic prosperity.
There have been many news reports that North Korea has a very superior labor force. Wages there are very low. Our small and medium enterprises whose competitiveness in the South is low can secure strong competitive power in the North. Both will benefit from this.
What we have to do is to make a hard and fast rule in inter-Korean relations and that is that only one side, either the North or the South, should not enjoy profits unilaterally. Both should be happy. Then, there will be reconciliation and cooperation. We have to adopt a win-win policy. I reached an agreement clearly with Chairman Kim Jong-il to promote this type of exchanges and cooperation not only in the economic field, but in all sectors, including sports and cultural.
I do not want to go into detail since I do not have much time. The two sides will designate representatives who will go on discussing the implementation of the issues.
It was difficult to reach an agreement on the issue of Chairman Kim Jong-il's visit to Seoul. But he decided that he would come to Seoul within the agreed time frame. I told Chairman Kim that he has to come to the South to prove to the world the relationship between the two sides will continue to improve. If he does not, then people will think that this was just a one-time event. I told Chairman Kim that he must come to Seoul since an elderly person like me came all the way to Pyongyang.
This basically concludes my briefing.
Let me reiterate once again.
Korea is one country with one ethnic family. Koreans of both South and North have the same behavior and life styles. But it is also true that South and North Koreans lived under different political and social systems. These gaps cannot be narrowed down within a short time. This was the reason that we have not implemented the terms of the July 4 Joint Communique for the last 28 years. We must consider North Koreans as our brothers and sisters. We must believe that they have the same thought. We have to resolve easier and possible issues first, which will benefit both sides. Doing so, we will be able to build up trust and mutual understanding. I will only build the foundation, and the person after me will do better. Most importantly there is no longer going to be any war. The North will no longer attempt unification by force and at the same time we will not do any harm to the North. We have to live together to become a first-rate nation in the world. The four superpowers will no longer be considered imperialists but our markets.
I hope you will treat the North under an assumption that with high intelligence, cultural background, and an information edge, the two of us will explore the world market. Security should be tight, aimed at preventing war and reaching reconciliation and cooperation. When we move this way, God will bless the two nations.
I am confident that we will be able to leave a unified and prosperous peninsula.
Thank you once again. I promise you that I will do my utmost to serve the people of this nation. There is more good news, but I would like to stop here. I wish you all the best.