North Korea - South Korea

Chronology from Jan 2006 to Mar 2006

: ROK DM Yoon Kwang-ung warns that North Korea must give up nuclear weapons before a permanent peace treaty on the Peninsula can be discussed.

: ROK Vice Unification Minister Shin Un-sang says ROK proposed April 20 as a date for postponed ministerial talks, but the North has yet to respond.

: ROK Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok deplores tacking other issues on to North Korea’s nuclear problem. This is thought to refer to U.S. financial concerns.

: ROK Korean Resources Corp (KoRes) says it will import its first DPRK iron ore in May, from a mine developed with a Chinese firm. It also announces an investor meeting April 28 in Pyongyang to raise Southern interest in Northern minerals.

: KNTO, the ROK state tourism body, is running tour packages that include both Koreas from Beijing and Vladivostok. There is no travel across the DMZ.

: Rodong Sinmun warns “South Korean warhawks” that the RSOI-Foal Eagle exercises, “collusion with foreign forces,” could jeopardize Mt. Kumgang tourism.

: A DPRK elite family, possibly diplomats or other state officials, arrive in Seoul after defecting via the ROK embassy in Budapest, Hungary on March 22.

: ROK Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok signs an agreement with Lee Jong-wook, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), to give WHO $20 million over two years for maternal and infant health programs in North Korea.

: ROK Trade Minister Kim Hyun-jong attends groundbreaking for a $20 million water treatment facility in the Kaesong zone. Jointly built, it will supply 60,000 tons of water from a DPRK reservoir 17 km away to both the zone and Kaesong city.

: ROK’s national museum announces an agreement with its DPRK counterpart to exhibit 90 of the latter’s “significant cultural treasures” in Seoul in June.

: JoongAng Ilbo says South Korea is wary of China’s rising influence in the North, even if it serves to reduce the threat from Pyongyang.

: After seeing the musical Yoduk Story, ex-ROK President Kim Young-sam (1993-98) denounces the DPRK as the world’s most despotic country, and says there will be no true peace on the Peninsula as long as Kim Jong-il lives.

: Korea Times reports that ever more Northern defectors are turning to crime, due to financial hardship and inability to adapt to life in South Korea.

: ROK Unification Ministry admits expressing “regret” for the press row, so as not to jeopardize the family reunions, but insists it did not admit fault or apologize.

: ROK Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon says the DPRK seems to be signalling a wish to return to Six-Party Talks and break the deadlock with the U.S.

: The semi-official Yonhap News Agency reports that the ROK will publish its biennial defense white paper in September. As in 2004, this will no longer label the DPRK as the “main enemy.”

: The ROK’s human resources agency says it will open a $16.4 million skill center in the Kaesong zone in June, to train 4,000 DPRK workers in 13 job areas.

: A U.S.-funded meeting on DPRK human rights, held at the European Parliament in Brussels, hears testimony from defectors. It is picketed by 90 ROK leftists, protesting that human-rights agitation is a U.S. ploy to block peace on the Peninsula.

: A Northern physician, who defected last year, tells a human rights forum in Seoul that the DPRK routinely kills babies with physical disabilities to “purify the masses.” The New Right Union calls on the ROK government to actively protest such abuses.

: Northern officials physically prevent a ROK journalist at Mt. Kumgang from filing a dispatch referring to an “abductee,” and demand that he leave. The row delays the return home of 99 elderly Southern family members. In protest, the entire ROK press corps leaves the next day. The second phase of reunions is held during March 23-25 without further incident

: The 13th round of reunions of separated families since 2000’s inter-Korean summit is held at the North’s Mt. Kumgang resort.

: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres visits China, the first UNHCR head to do so in nine years. He calls for DPRK asylum seekers in China to be protected. China reiterates that they are illegal immigrants, not refugees.

: Yoduk Story, an unlikely musical written by a defector and set in the DPRK gulag, opens in Seoul. It becomes a surprise hit, and the run sells out.

: South Korea formally opens two new immigration and customs offices on its side of the DMZ, serving the Kyongui (west) and Donghae (east) road-rail corridors.

: First inter-Korean trade union meeting in three years, held in Kaesong, reaches no concrete agreement but agrees that workers must promote reunification.

: North unilaterally postpones 18th round of ministerial talks set for March 28-31, protest routine U.S.-ROK military exercises due at the same time.

: DPRK merchant ship Kanpaeksan starts loading 5,000 tons of fertilizer in the ROK port of Kunsan. It is the first Northern vessel to enter a Southern port since October.

: South Korean farmers say they plan to set up a rice bank in May, to assist North Korea and Southern paupers. They hope to deliver via the new cross-border railway.

: The first general-level military talks since 2004, held at Panmunjom in the DMZ, fail to agree on either maritime or land border security issues.

: 37 DPRK ice hockey players and officials visit the ROK side of Kangwon province (bisected by the DMZ) for friendly matches, the first event of its kind.

: In Kaesong, the ROK hands over war memorial Bukgwandaecheopbi, erected in 1707, but seized by Japanese troops in 1905. Japan returned it to Seoul last October.

: The 11th working-level contact on road and railway reconnection is held in Kaesong. Despite Southern hopes of test train runs in March, no progress is made.

: 575 Koreans from 40 separated families on each side are temporarily reunited by videolink. Each family gets two hours.

: 124 Seoul-based foreign journalists visit the Kaesong industrial zone.

: After a meeting in Kaesong, officials from Kwangju say the ROK city will host a unification festival in June, with 1,100 participants from both Koreas.

: South Korea agrees to send the North 150,000 tons of fertilizer. Shipments begin Feb. 28.

: At the seventh Red Cross talks at Mt. Kumgang, the DPRK for the first time agrees to work toward confirming the fate of persons missing during and since the Korean War. Both sides agree to a special (perhaps larger) family reunion in June, plus two more video reunions in June and August, with 60 families instead of the usual 40.

: North Korea sends a thank you on the completion of delivery of last year’s provision of 500,000 tons of rice by South Korea.

: 99 ROK ambassadors visit the Kaesong industrial zone.

: The year’s first meeting of the ROK National Security Council (NSC), adopts six key tasks for 2006, the foremost being to construct the basis for a peace mechanism on the peninsula.

: Lee Jong-seok takes office as ROK minister of unification.

: For the sixth time in sporting events since 2000, both Koreas’ athletes march together at the opening ceremony of the Turin Winter Olympics.

: ROK Vice Unification Minister Rhee Bong-jo reports that inter-Korean trade in January rose 27 percent year-on-year to $63 million.

: Four lawmakers of the ROK’s ruling Uri party visit Pyongyang and meet senior officials. Their ostensible main purpose is to discuss academic exchanges between think-tanks. The group’s leader, Rep. Lim Chae-jung, denies being an envoy for ex-President Kim Dae-jung, who has said he hopes to revisit the DPRK capital this year.

: The two Koreas agree to resume high-level military talks soon, after a 21-month hiatus.

: As usual at this season, North Korea asks the South to send fertilizer: 150,000 tons now, and 300,000 tons later on.

: MOU reports that South Korean visitors to the North more than tripled from 26,213 in 2004 to 87,028 in 2005. This excludes 298,247 ROK tourists to the North’s Mt. Kumgang resort, up 11 percent.

: Yang Hyong-sop, presidium vice chairman of the DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), proposes a unification festival to mark the sixth anniversary of the June 2000 inter-Korean Summit.

: Working-level talks held in Kaesong, the fourth since October, reach no agreement but narrow differences over mining and light industry projects.

: The Korean War Abductees’ Family Union files two suits against the ROK government: for negligence in failing to find South Koreans taken to the North during the 1950-53 Korean War, and for refusing to enact a bill to restore the honor of those so abducted who were civil servants.

: The last 57 South Korean workers at the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO)’s light-water reactor project site are evacuated from Sinpo, DPRK to Sokcho, ROK. They have to leave behind equipment worth $45 million.

: Lee Sung-woo, an ROK missionary, says that construction of a new church for foreigners in Pyongyang, approved in 2004, is being delayed because DPRK authorities now want his group to renovate the capital’s existing Chilgol church instead.

: The North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) says that a petition from ex-DPRK spies who served long prison terms in the South, seeking billions of dollars compensation for suffering at the hands of ROK military regimes, was handed to Southern authorities that day at Panmunjom. Three days later, four ROK fishermen who escaped after years of abduction say they will counter-sue for $1 billion each.

: MOU reports that inter-Korean trade in 2005 reached a record $1.05 billion.

: A survey of ROK conscripts finds that 60 percent see little or no risk of war on the Peninsula. 37.5 percent take little pride in being a soldier, while 63.2 percent say North Korea should be viewed more as a partner than an enemy – although vigilance should be maintained.

: The ROK Unification Ministry (MOU) says that since early December it has supplied some 60,000 tons of coal to residents of Kaesong, DPRK. Last winter South Korea provided 20,000 tons of coal briquettes and 10,000 stoves.

: A ton of rice from a model farm in Ryongsong, Pyongyang, aided by the ROK’s Kyonggi province, arrives at Incheon. This is the first Northern rice sent South since flood aid in 1984. During 2005 South Korea gave the North 500,000 tons of rice.

: ROK President Roh Moo-hyun nominates Lee Jong-seok, long influential as deputy chief of the National Security Council (NSC), as new unification minister.

: President Roh appoints Lee Jong-seok, long influential as deputy chief of the National Security Council, as the new unification minister.

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