North Korea-South Korea Relations Chronology

Content Type
Journal Article
Comparative Connections
Issue Number
Publication Date
October 2008
Center for Strategic and International Studies
July 1, 2008: Sources in Seoul say the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has asked both Koreas that their athletes march together during the opening and closing ceremonies at the Summer Olympics in Beijing. July 3, 2008: The DPRK's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland (CPRF) denounces the ROK for officially commemorating the sixth anniversary of what it now dubs the “Second Yeonpyeong Naval Battle” on June 29, calling this a provocation. six ROK sailors died in a border clash when fired on by DPRK vessels. July 6, 2008: In Seoul, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – a former ROK foreign minister – offers to play “a facilitator role” in improving inter-Korean relations.
Political Geography
Beijing, South Korea, North Korea
July 1, 2008: Sources in Seoul say the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has asked both Koreas that their athletes march together during the opening and closing ceremonies at the Summer Olympics in Beijing. July 3, 2008: The DPRK's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland (CPRF) denounces the ROK for officially commemorating the sixth anniversary of what it now dubs the “Second Yeonpyeong Naval Battle” on June 29, calling this a provocation. six ROK sailors died in a border clash when fired on by DPRK vessels. July 6, 2008: In Seoul, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – a former ROK foreign minister – offers to play “a facilitator role” in improving inter-Korean relations. July 6, 2008: The Associated Press (AP) reports that 100,000 or more South Koreans were killed in hurried mass executions in mid-1950 early in the Korean War by ROK authorities, who feared southern leftists might help the invading DPRK troops. The ROK's official Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is investigating this, including a possible U.S. role. The TRC estimates that 7,000 were summarily killed by military and civil police in Daejeon city alone, where an ex-prison guard has testified that all prisoners sentenced to 10 years or more were trucked off to the killing fields. July 7, 2008: President Lee Myung-bak reiterates his willingness to meet DPRK leader Kim Jong-il any time, if this will help end North Korea's nuclear programs. July 8, 2008: The Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee reports that as of July 4 the number of DPRK workers in the zone topped 30,000, hired by 72 ROK firms. Cumulative output in the zone since 2004 was worth $374 million as of end-May. July 8, 2008: Good Friends, a leading ROK Buddhist NGO, claims half a million North Koreans will starve to death by September absent immediate food aid from the South. North Korea-South Korea Relations 91 October 2008 July 10, 2008: Six-Party Talks on the North Korean nuclear issue resume in Beijing, after a hiatus of nine months. July 10, 2008: In a meeting at Panmunjom, North Korea protests upcoming US-ROK war games. Each side also accuses the other of violations within the truce village: Northern soldiers allegedly overturned tables while Southern tourists were visiting, while the KPA accused Southern troops of provoking them with angry stares. July 11, 2008: A KPA soldier shoots dead a middle-aged female Southern tourist at Mt. Kumgang, Park Wang-ja, who apparently strayed into a restricted area on a pre-dawn walk. Seoul at once suspends tourism to the resort pending an investigation. The DPRK expresses regret, but refuses to apologize or allow entry to an official ROK enquiry team. July 11, 2008: President Lee goes ahead with a planned speech to the new ROK National Assembly; saying that “full dialogue between the two Koreas must resume,” including on how to implement the summit accords of both 2000 and 2007 as well as the never-realized 1991 inter-Korean basic agreement. He also offers humanitarian aid. July 12, 2008: The Guidance Bureau for Comprehensive Development of Scenic Spots, which oversees the North's tourism business, says that the DPRK regrets the death of Park Wang-ja, but responsibility rests entirely with the South. July 12, 2008: The Six-Party Talks in Beijing conclude with a six-point agreement. North Korea undertakes to fully disable its Yongbyon reactor by October, while other parties will complete delivery of energy aid by the same date. Details are to be finalized in working-level discussions. July 13, 2008: Rodong Sinmun, daily paper of the DPRK's ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), dismisses President Lee's call to resume inter-Korean dialogue as “nothing new.” It accuses Lee of evasiveness in “mingling all the past agreements together,” rather than specifically endorsing and prioritizing the two summit accords of 2000 and 2007. July 15, 2008: A propos the ROK navy's participation in the ongoing RIMPAC multilateral maritime exercises off Hawaii, Rodong Sinmun accuses South Korea of seeking a “triangular military alliance” with the U.S. and Japan and warns of “catastrophic consequences.” July 18, 2008: The DPRK's Korean National Peace Committee calls the just-announced Ulji Freedom Guardian joint US-ROK exercises, to be held August 18-22, “an open declaration of confrontation” by the U.S. “warmongers” and South Korean “puppet forces”. July 19, 2008: The North Korean website Uriminzokkiri denounces Tokyo's renewed claim to the disputed Dokdo/ Takeshima islets, but blames Lee Myung-bak for ingratiating himself with the “mortal enemy”, claiming that “Lee has paid a tribute to the Jap King (sic), calling him 'Tenno (The Lord of Heaven).'” North Korea-South Korea Relations 92 October 2008 July 20, 2008: Tongil Sinbo, the North's weekly covering the South, says that Lee Myung-bak's July 11 address contained nothing new, but clearly revealed his confrontational stance towards the North. It demands that he clarify his position on the two inter-Korean summits. July 23, 2008: At informal six-party meetings ahead of the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) in Singapore, ROK Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan reiterates Seoul's demand for a full joint investigation into the tourist incident to his DPRK equivalent, Pak Ui-chun. Yu also raises the issue a day earlier at the 'ASEAN + 3' (China, Japan, ROK) foreign ministers' meeting. For the North, Pak calls on the South to endorse the two inter-Korean summit declarations. Harried by both sides, the eventual chairman's statement deletes all references to Korea. July 24, 2008: After ROK Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee calls the DPRK a “present enemy” on July 21, the North's Korean Central Broadcasting Station (KCBS) threatens the South with an unspecified “tougher counter-measure” for this “unpardonable provocation”. July 27-30, 2008: Diplomatic dueling continues at the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) ministerial meeting in Tehran. The DPRK is a member, the ROK only an observer. Seoul is satisfied that the final declaration reflects much of its own position, specifically on honoring all inter-Korean agreements (and not only the two summits of the past decade). July 31, 2008: South Korea's Unification Ministry (MOU) announces that President Lee's policy towards the North will officially be known as “coexistence and coprosperity.” Critics complain of a lack of hard detail, while Pyongyang dismisses this as nothing new. Aug. 1, 2008: An ROK firearms expert says forensic evidence suggests that Park Wang-ja may not have been fleeing when fatally shot. Denied access to the North, an 8-member team conducts a 2-day simulation of the incident on South Korea's east coast. Aug. 1, 2008: In its first official comment, the ROK Defense Ministry (MND) denounces the KPA's shooting of Ms. Park, an unarmed civilian, as violating both humanitarian principle and international law. Aug. 3, 2008: The (North) Korean People's Army (KPA) unit at Mt. Kumgang issues a “special statement in connection with the unsavory incident … on July 11.” Besides giving the North's version of events, this lambastes the “south Korean puppets” for their “reckless racket” and threatens to expel “unnecessary” South Koreans from the mountain resort. Aug. 4, 2008: Chung Mong-joon, head of the (South) Korean Football Association – also a ruling party MP, presidential hopeful, Hyundai scion (shipbuilding) and Korea's richest man – says North Korea will again try to shift an upcoming soccer World Cup qualifying match with the South on Sept. 10 to a third country venue, as happened in March, rather than let the ROK fly its flag and play its national anthem in Pyongyang as FIFA regulations require. Aug. 5, 2008: South Korea says it has given up trying for a joint march of both Koreas' athletes into the Beijing Olympic stadium, as in Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004. More ambitious North Korea-South Korea Relations 93 October 2008 plans, for a single team and joint cheering squad, had already foundered over the North's refusal to discuss details since the change of government in Seoul. Aug. 6, 2008: In Seoul, President Lee and the visiting U.S. President George W Bush jointly urge North Korea to improve human rights and immediately complete denuclearization as a prerequisite for normalizing relations. This is the first such joint pressure on human rights. Aug. 7, 2008: MOU reveals that Pyongyang has refused to let Jay Lefkowitz, President Bush's special envoy on DPRK human rights, visit the Kaesong industrial zone from Seoul on Aug. 13. Lefkowitz has previously criticized working conditions at the complex. Aug. 8, 2008: President Lee briefly meets the DPRK titular head of state, Kim Yong-nam, at a banquet marking the opening of the Olympic Games. They shake hands, and are seated diagonally opposite one another at a large table. It appears that they do not converse. Aug. 8, 2008: MOU reports delivery of 600 tons of steel bars as part of South Korean energy assistance to the North under the 6PT. This brings cumulative ROK aid to 124,000 tons of heavy fuel oil (HFO) or its equivalent. Aug. 8, 2008: The South returns the body of a KPA second lieutenant, found in the Imjin River last month, to the North's military mission at Panmunjom. Aug. 9, 2008: The KPA's Mt. Kumgang unit notifies Seoul that it will implement its threat of a week earlier, and start expelling ROK officials the next day (Aug. 10). Some 20 South Koreans depart by Aug. 12, leaving over 140 still there to manage the resort. Aug. 13, 2008: North Korea criticizes the captain of a South Korean barge, sailing for home after excavating sand (with permission) off the DPRK east coast, for a collision the previous night which sank a Northern fishing boat, killing two crew. The local KPA nonetheless lets the ROK vessel or crew go without any punishment, since this was an accident and at night. Aug. 13, 2008: A spokesman for the 72 ROK companies in the Kaesong industrial zone says the minimum monthly wage for their 30,000 DPRK employees has been raised by 5 per cent, from $52.50 to $55.13. This is the second pay rise since the complex opened in 2004. The money is paid to DPRK authorities, so how much reaches the workers' pockets is not clear. Aug. 15, 2008: President Lee marks Liberation Day – from Japan in 1945; a holiday in both Koreas, jointly celebrated from 2001 until 2006 – by renewing his call to North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons and resume full-fledged dialogue and economic cooperation with the South. There is no immediate response from Pyongyang. Aug. 15, 2008: The North, South, and Overseas Side Committees for Implementing the June 15 [2000 inter-Korean summit] Joint Declaration issue a joint statement on “the Japanese imperialists' vicious colonial rule over the Korean nation,” saying that “Japan has not yet admitted the thrice-cursed crimes it committed against the Korean people, but is getting more North Korea-South Korea Relations 94 October 2008 frantic in distortion of its history of aggression, moves to grab Dokdo islets and political suppression of Koreans in Japan.” Aug. 18, 2008: MOU reveals that North Korea has demanded further personnel cuts at Mt. Kumgang, down to 200 by Aug. 20. This will reduce the non-DPRK workforce from 536 (of whom 114 are South Korean) to 199: 74 from the ROK and 125 “necessary” other nationals. Aug. 18, 2008: Both the KPA's Panmunjom mission and the DPRK Committee for Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland (CPRF) denounce the annual Ulji Freedom Guardian joint U.S.-ROK wargames, on the day these begin. Minju Joson, the DPRK cabinet's daily paper, comments next day: “This shows what Lee [Myung-bak] means by 'dialogue' and 'peace.'” Aug. 18, 2008: As part of Ulji Freedom Guardian, the ROK holds a Cabinet meeting in an underground bunker. President Lee says South Korea must remain prepared in case of conflict. On Aug. 24 DPRK media denounce this as “unpardonable wild words of war.” Aug. 19, 2008: Lim Tae-hee, chief policymaker of South Korea's ruling Grand National Party (GNP), says that North Korea might have sent a representative to President Lee's inauguration if it had received a special invitation, rather than the same ordinary invitation as sent to other countries. This hint was ignored, and the North duly stayed away. Aug. 22, 2008: The DPRK's front Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the ROK's hard-left Democratic Labor Party (DLP) jointly denounce Tokyo's claim to the Dokdo islets as well as its persecution of Chongryon, the organization of pro-North Koreans in Japan. Aug. 23, 2008: The UN World Food Program (WFP) says that while North Korea's food shortage is not at the famine level of a decade ago, aid from South Korea is essential. Earlier WFP asked Seoul to contribute food worth $60 million. Aug. 25, 2008: President Lee urges Chinese president Hu Jintao, on a visit to Seoul, to stop repatriating North Korean defectors from China. Hu's response is not recorded. Aug. 26, 2008: The DPRK announces that as of Aug. 14 it has stopped disabling its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon. Aug. 26, 2008: MOU announces that the official English name for the new administration's approach to North Korea is “the policy of mutual benefits and common prosperity.” Aug. 26, 2008: MOU reports 1,744 North Korean defectors reached the South in the first half of this year, up 41.7 percent from 1,230 during the same period last year, and more than double the 2006 first-half figure of 869. At this rate, the total for 2008 will top 3,000 for the first time. Aug. 26, 2008: Seoul warns that DPRK defectors who seek refugee status again in a third country, having already obtained ROK citizenship, may face criminal punishment. Last year some 130 North Koreans in this position were granted political asylum in the UK alone. North Korea-South Korea Relations 95 October 2008 Aug. 27, 2008: South Korean prosecutors say they have arrested a female North Korean spy, Won Jeong-hwa, who posed as a defector and allegedly used sexual favors to gain sensitive information from South Korean military officers. Aug. 29, 2008: The DPRK Red Cross ridicules the ROK's recent holding of luncheons to console elderly members of separated families as “a clumsy trick and a burlesque.” Family reunions have been suspended since last November, owing to the current political freeze. In 16 such reunions since the June 2000 summit, 16,212 family members have briefly met their relatives. A further 3,748, mostly too weak to travel, have been reunited for a few hours via real-time video links since August 2005. Over 90,000 South Koreans are on a waiting list. Aug. 28, 2008: To some surprise, the ROK defense ministry (MND) says it will not formally label the DPRK as an enemy in its next biennial White Paper. The two previous liberal administrations had drawn conservative flak for dropping this tag. MND adds that it will, however, emphasize the “very substantial and present threats” posed by North Korea. Sept. 1, 2008: The South returns two North Koreans whose small boat had drifted into ROK waters, handing them over to DPRK authorities at sea at the Northern Limit Line (NLL): the de facto western marine border, which Pyongyang does not officially recognize. In a similar incident two days later, two young North Korean women whose boat also drifted into Southern waters are returned, this time via Panmunjom (and presumably sans boat). Sept. 3, 2008: The ROK Foreign Ministry, MOFAT, formally protests (in mild terms) the DPRK's efforts to restore its Yongbyon nuclear site. Sept. 3, 2008: The DPRK's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland (CPRF) says that Won Jeong-hwa is a convicted criminal who fled to South Korea after being caught in scams and stealing. It accuses the ROK of fabricating the spy case. Sept. 3, 2008: The ninth Seoul Peace Prize, worth $200,000, is awarded to Suzanne Scholte, president of the Defense Forum Foundation (DFF), a conservative Washington NGO, for her work raising awareness of North Korean refugees and human rights issues. Sept. 4, 2008: Yonhap reports a police survey finding that 1,687 Northern defectors, or 20 percent of the total arrivals of 8,885 (1998 – Jan. 2007), have criminal records in the South. Over half of these, or 10 percent of all defectors, committed murder, robbery, or assault. Other surveys find that nearly a quarter have been swindled financially in the ROK, while over 60 percent feel discriminated against at work and distrustful toward South Koreans. Sept. 9, 2008: Kim Jong-il misses a military parade (itself scaled down) in Pyongyang for the DPRK's 60th founding anniversary. He is rumored to be ill, and to have suffered a stroke in August. North Koreans deny that anything is amiss; but Kim fails to reappear throughout September and through early October, so speculation continues. Sept. 5, 2008: A German lawmaker visiting Pyongyang says that North Korea is waiting for “strong signals” from Seoul before resuming dialogue. Hartmut Koschyk, chairman of the North Korea-South Korea Relations 96 October 2008 Germany-DPRK parliamentary group, quotes the North's titular head of state, Kim Yong-nam, as telling him that “inter-Korean relations depend on how South Korea acts.” Sept. 7, 2008: WFP director Jean-Pierre de Margerie tells Yonhap that Pyongyang would not reject food aid from Seoul despite the current political chill, at this “very dire period in terms of food security.” Sept. 7, 2008: A report by Hyundai Research Institute claims that inter-Korean cooperation has generated $27.6 billion in economic gains for South Korea since the 2000 summit. This includes $7.7 billion saved in interest payments as eased tensions raised sovereign credit ratings, and $18.1 billion from reduced defense spending. Less nebulously, the Kaesong and Kumgang projects have created $1.62 billion in employment and investment in the ROK. Sept. 16, 2008: A government source says South Korea will deliver energy assistance due under the Six-Party Talks (6PT), despite the North's recent nuclear backtracking. Sept. 17, 2008: South Korea repatriates via Panmunjom the body of a drowned KPA soldier, found in the Imjin River (which flows from North to South) on Sept. 2. Sept. 19, 2008: Nuclear delegations from each Korea hold their first meeting in two months at Panmunjom, at the North's instigation, to discuss energy aid under the 6PT. No progress is made. Hyon Hak-bon of the DPRK Foreign Ministry criticizes U.S. verification demands, and dismisses reports that Kim Jong-il is unwell as “the mere sophistry of bad people who do not want our country to fare well.” Sept. 20, 2008: Seoul allows the first civic visits to the North since July's shooting incident. 136 members of the Korean Sharing Movement, plus a dozen journalists, fly to Pyongyang by chartered plane to monitor aid projects, while the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), the more militant of the country's two umbrella labor groups, sends a 13-member delegation on a five-day visit. Sept. 21, 2008: Rodong Sinmun attacks “traitor” Lee Myung-bak for opposing plans for a Northern workers' dormitory at the Kaesong industrial complex, and accuses him of “trying to ruin all business projects in Kaesong.” Lee claims this could lead to industrial unrest. Sept. 22, 2008: 96 members of the (ROK) Catholic Priests' Association for Justice fly to Pyongyang to hold a special mass. A day later, 15 Southern pro-unification activists go to the North to discuss ways to enhance exchanges with their Northern counterparts. Sept. 22, 2008: Radio Pyongyang reports that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent congratulations to Kim Jong-il for the DPRK's 60th anniversary. This is the first time that North Korean media have directly named Ban, a former ROK foreign minister. Sept. 25, 2008: Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan says Seoul will take no immediate retaliation in regard to the DPRK's nuclear recidivism. He warns next day, however, that “the North's denuclearization has returned to the starting point, back to square one.” North Korea-South Korea Relations 97 October 2008 Sept. 26, 2008: North Korea unexpectedly proposes working-level inter-Korean military talks four days hence, on Sept. 30. The South suggests Oct. 2 instead; the North accepts. Sept. 26, 2008: The North's Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland (DFRF) attacks the ROK's decision to create a special panel on DPRK human rights as “a vicious profanity of our dignity and system and another unpardonable provocation.” Sept. 27, 2008: Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee tells a forum in Seoul that the DPRK is a grave threat to regional security, as it “maintains a vast military and forward deploys more than 70 percent of its ground forces. It stands ready to mount a surprise attack any time.” Sept. 27, 2008: Chosun Ilbo reports that the ROK National Police Agency (NPA) is watching 76 pro-DPRK websites overseas: 31 in the US, 19 in Japan, 13 in China, 4 in Germany, and 9 elsewhere. Some cunningly disguise themselves with names like book center, university, bank, baduk, Korean music, and so forth. Sept. 27, 2008: Police and intelligence agents raid the Seoul HQ of an NGO, Solidarity for Practice of the South-North Joint Declaration, accused of being pro-North in violation of the National Security Law (NSL). Materials are confiscated, and seven members arrested. Sept. 27, 2008: Foreign Minister Yu reiterates that the South will only “actively pursue economic cooperation with North Korea when the second phase [of nuclear disarmament] is completed in a irreversible way.” Sept. 29, 2008: Former WPK secretary Hwang Jang-yop, 85, still the highest level DPRK defector ever, tells Seoul lawmakers that Kim Jong-il's illness is unimportant: “Anyone … can govern” North Korea, and even “Kim's death will never lead to its collapse.” Hwang also calls the disabling of Yongbyon “a fake gesture,” since the DPRK has nuclear weapons. Sept. 29, 2008: In Moscow, President Lee and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agree to link the inter-Korean and trans-Siberian railways, and to build a gas pipeline from Russia to South Korea via North Korea. It is unclear if Pyongyang was consulted about any of this. Sept. 29, 2008: Jin Yeong, a lawmaker of the ROK ruling Grand National Party (GNP), says the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun governments gave or loaned the DPRK Won2.7 and 5.7 trillion respectively (about $8 billion in total). The 'loan' component, such as rice aid where repayment is nominally due to start from 2010, may well be irrecoverable. Sept. 30, 2008: U.S. Assistant Secretary of State and Chief Delegate to the Six-Party Talks Christopher Hill arrives in Seoul to consult with his ROK counterpart Kim Sook. He goes on to Pyongyang by car next day, via the DMZ. Sept. 30, 2008: JoongAng Ilbo says the ROK is negotiating with Mongolia and Thailand to accommodate DPRK refugees – but is failing to persuade China to change its stance of regarding all border-crossers as economic migrants and repatriating them. North Korea-South Korea Relations 98 October 2008 Oct. 1, 2008: The North Korean website Uriminzokkiri calls Suh Jae-jean, new head of the Korean Insitute for National Unification (KINU: South Korea's official think tank on the North, under the MOU), an “extremely vicious … anti-DPRK hysteric.” Suh recently told a university forum that dialogue with an “abnormal and wrong regime” like the DPRK is worthless, and that reports that Kim Jong-il is ailing had brought reunification closer. Oct. 1, 2008: In his first public appearance since leaving office in February, ex-President Roh Moo-hyun tells an unofficial meeting in Seoul, ahead of the first anniversary of his summit with Kim Jong-il, that the agreement he signed has been “abandoned … I hoped it would be thick with leaves and bear fruit one year later, but now the tree is shriveling.” Oct. 2, 2008: The first inter-Korean military talks in eight months – also the first official bilateral North-South dialogue of Lee Myung-bak's presidency – are held at Panmunjom, but are brief and make little headway. The DPRK called the meeting to protest at ROK NGOs spreading propaganda leaflets across the DMZ. The start is delayed almost an hour when the North demands that media be present throughout; the South protests that this is not usual. Oct. 2, 2008: Some 40 lawmakers of South Korea's center-left main opposition Democratic Party (DP) visit the Kaesong industrial zone. DP chairman Chung Sye-kyun is photographed being given a flu injection by a North Korean nurse at the complex. Chung calls for talks between the two sides' parliamentarians as a way to thaw the current inter-Korean ice. Oct. 5, 2008: Lee Jeong-hyun, a lawmaker of South Korea's ruling Grand National Party, says the Unification Ministry has admitted – having at first denied – that 62 counterfeit US banknotes (all but one $100 bills) were found circulating at Mt. Kumgang during 2005-07. MOU and Hyundai Asan both profess to believe that Southern tourists brought them in. Oct. 5, 2008: Another GNP lawmaker, Hong Jung-wook, claims there are critical loopholes in ROK contingency planning. Specifically, President Lee was not told about the Kumgang shooting incident for several hours, leaving him no time to amend his Jul. 11 address. Oct. 7, 2008: A multi-faith group of South Korean Christians and Buddhists, led by Ven. Bomnyun of the Buddhist relief group Good Friends, hands Unification Minister Kim Ha-joong a petition with over a million signatures calling for urgent food aid to the North. Oct. 7, 2008: Unification Minister Kim Ha-joong tells the ROK National Assembly that he hopes tourism to Mt. Kumgang can resume “as soon as possible” and at all events in time for the 10th anniversary of such tours on Nov. 8. Oct. 8, 2008: Following North Korea's Oct. 2 complaint, MOU asks Southern civic groups to refrain from sending leaflets across the DMZ by balloon. Two such groups immediately say they will ignore this and go ahead with planned launches. North Korea-South Korea Relations 99 October 2008