North Korea - South Korea

Chronology from Oct 2006 to Dec 2006

: Seoul press reports suggest that Hyundai Asan will fall back into the red this year, as tourist numbers to Mt. Kumgang have fallen since the nuclear test.

: The ROK Defense Ministry (MND)’s biennial White Paper describes the DPRK as a “grave threat,” more severe than last time’s “direct military threat.” Until 2004 MND characterized the North as the South’s “main enemy,” but this was deleted (over conservative protests) as unconducive to Sunshine.

: Unification Minister Lee Jae-jeong says he hopes inter-Korean talks will resume as soon as possible, and that to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue requires “deeply analyzing the North’s sense of extreme urgency.”

: Two Korean People’s Army (KPA) soldiers are returned to the North via the truce village of Panmunjom, almost three weeks after being rescued from a small boat adrift off Sokcho on South Korea’s east coast on Dec. 9.

: The Six-Party Talks break up with no apparent progress, nor any date agreed for a resumption, although there are hopes that this will be early in 2007.

: South Korea holds a ceremony in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to connect new power cables, costing $55 million, which will increase supplies of electricity to the North’s Kaesong industrial park from 15,000 to 100,000 kilowatts.

: President Roh wonders aloud why the U.S. State and Treasury Departments seemed not to be working in sync on North Korea policy in fall 2005.

: ROK officials say their DPRK counterparts have recently resumed work at the joint Economic Cooperation Promotion Committee (ECPC) office in the Kaesong industrial zone. They had withdrawn in July when the South suspended aid after the North’s missile tests.

: Chosun Sinbo carries an evaluation of inter-Korean relations in 2006.

: The fifth round of six-party nuclear talks resumes after a 13-month gap.

: In the first direct inter-Korean flight since the North’s nuclear test, a 97-strong delegation from the Korean Sharing Movement, an ROK NGO, flies from Seoul to Pyongyang for a ceremony opening a new neurosurgery and respiratory ward at the DPRK’s Red Cross Hospital, which KSM has been aiding for three years.

: DPRK’s Committee for Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland (CPRF) denounces expansion of joint U.S.-ROK RSOI (Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration) military exercises as a provocation and maneuver to invade the North.

: Former ROK FM Ban Ki-moon is sworn in as UN secretary general.

: Lee Jae-jeong (or Jae-joung), new unification minister, formally takes office, six weeks after Roh nominated him to replace Lee Jong-seok. The Grand National Party (GNP) had blocked his confirmation, claiming he is soft on Pyongyang.

: The Ilsimhoe 5 (see Oct. 25) are indicted on charges of violating the ROK National Security Law (NSL) by allegedly spying for North Korea.

: At the Asiad North Korea’s women’s football team, ranked first in Asia and seventh in the world, defeats South Korea 4-1; they go on to win the event. South Korea’s men defeat the North 3-0 on Dec. 9, but go down to Iraq 1-0 in the semifinal. The DPRK also fields a 1,000-strong cheering squad of its builders working locally.

: As has become the norm in recent years, athletes from the two Koreas march together at the opening ceremonies of the 15th Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, but go on to compete as separate teams. The ROK’s is 750-strong, the DPRK’s 160.

: In the first such meeting for 61 years, 115 journalists from the South and 50 from the North meet at the DPRK’s Mt. Kumgang resort and pledge to promote inter-Korean exchanges and reconciliation.

: JoongAng Ilbo reports after visiting Pyongyang with a Southern NGO delivering aid that North Korean state propaganda is preparing its citizens for another “arduous march” like that in the 1990s.

: Former president and Nobel peace prize laureate Kim Dae-jung warns that pressure is not the way to change the North.

: After meeting George W. Bush at the APEC summit in Hanoi, Roh Moo-hyun confirms that South Korea is “not taking part in the full scope” of the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative, but affirms that Seoul will “fully cooperate in preventing WMD (weapons of mass destruction) materiel transfer” in the region.

: After abstaining on such votes for the past four years, South Korea for the first time backs a UN resolution condemning North Korea’s human rights record.

: Seoul says it will cut 2007’s budget for inter-Korean cooperation by 26 percent to 1.95 billion won. However, most of this reflects the winding down of KEDO’s LWR project. Stripping this out, the general budget cut will be 3.5 percent.

: South Korea says joint economic and humanitarian projects with the North will remain suspended until progress is made in talks on dismantling the DPRK’s nuclear weapons program.

: Rodong Sinmun, daily paper of the DPRK’s ruling Workers Party of Korea (WPK), criticizes the ROK government for not allowing a radical pro-unification youth group to visit the North.

: The DLP delegation returns from the North to much flak, not least for not revealing that they had visited Mangyongdae, the birthplace of, and now a shrine to, North Korea’s founding leader Kim Il-sung.

: In Pyongyang the visiting DLP delegation meets Kim Yong-nam, who as president of the Supreme People’s Assembly Presidium is North Korea’s titular head of state. Kim reportedly offers to resume reunions of separated families.

: President Roh nominates a new security team. Presidential security adviser Song Min-soon is to be foreign minister. The new unification minister is Lee Jae-jeong. The new defense minister is Army Chief of Staff Kim Jang-soo, and Deputy NIS Director Kim Man-bok replaces Kim Seung-kyu as the ROK’s intelligence supremo.

: Kim Geun-tae, chair of the ruling Uri Party, criticizes Kim Seung-kyu for a newspaper interview in which he did not deny reports that he had been sacked and implicitly criticized successor Kim Man-bok as being too close to the ruling camp.

: DLP delegation leaves for Pyongyang on the first such visit since North Korea’s nuclear test.

: It is reported that North Korea is prepared to return to the six-party nuclear talks, in abeyance since November 2005.

: At a three-day meeting held at Mt. Kumgang, some 50 Southern and 30 Northern writers inaugurate the first joint writers’ association since the 1945 partition.

: Kim Seung-kyu, director of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), resigns abruptly. The Blue House vigorously denies that he was sacked for pursuing the aforementioned spy case.

: ROK Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok, a cornerstone of the Sunshine Policy, offers his resignation after just 10 months in office.

: After raids on homes and offices in Seoul, prosecutors request arrest warrants for three men (later rising to five) on charges of spying for North Korea. Two have links with the hard-left Democratic Labor Party (DLP), which has 10 of the ROK National Assembly’s 299 seats. The DLP denounces this as a smear.

: ROK Defense Minister Yoon Gwang-ung, a key promoter of President Roh Moo-hyun’s military reform plans, tenders his resignation after two years in post.

: MOU says it will stop subsidizing some tourists to Mt. Kumgang – war veterans, students, and the disabled – but that tours will continue. Subsidies had fallen markedly in any case, from $22.5 million in 2002 to $3 million in 2004.

: Criticism by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill of South Korea’s Mt. Kumgang tourism project as sustaining North Korea is rebutted by senior Blue House security adviser Song Min-soon (soon to become ROK foreign minister).

: A 21-strong Southern group, including former foreign and unification ministers, flies to Pyongyang for a festival celebrating Yun I-sang on Oct. 18-19. (The late Yun [1917-95], Korea’s leading modern composer in the Western classical idiom, hailed from the South but embraced the North after he was persecuted and tortured.) The ROK group was to have been larger, but some 40 musicians and scholars, including conductor Chung Myung-whun, pulled out after the DPRK’s nuclear test.

: For the second time in three months the UN Security Council (UNSC) passes a unanimous resolution condemning North Korea, this time for its nuclear test. Resolution 1718 contains tougher sanctions than 1695, which followed the DPRK’s missile tests in July.

: Hyundai Asan reports that 31 percent of reservations for its tours to Mt. Kumgang were cancelled Oct. 10, the day after the North’s nuclear test. On Oct. 11 this rose to 48 percent. October is usually the most popular season for these trips.

: Love Call, a Southern NGO, sends 50,000 coal briquettes as scheduled by truck to Kosong on North Korea’s east coast. The group has sent 1.3 million briquettes to Kosong this year, and 60,000 to Kaesong.

: The ROK Ministry of Construction and Transportation (MCT) puts off indefinitely a sale of factory sites in the Kaesong industrial complex planned for later that month, citing uncertainty caused by North Korea’s nuclear test.

: A ship leaves ROK port of Incheon for the DPRK’s Nampo carrying 14 containers of aid from Korea YMCA and other NGOs.

: ROK Unification Ministry (MOU) reports that 2,195 South Koreans visiting the North at the time of its nuclear test – 1,448 tourists at Mt Kumgang, and 625 workers at the Kaesong industrial zone – are “safe and keeping their composure.” 13 Southern ships and 805 vehicles in the North were likewise not at risk.

: A group of ROK firms planning to set up in Kaesong says that “private investment should not be influenced by political, national and international affairs” – but calls on the government to protect them so that investors are not scared off.

: North Korea announces that it has successfully completed an underground nuclear test. Seoul suspends emergency aid to North Korea due to the nuclear test.

: South Korea’s FM Ban is confirmed as next UN secretary general. He will succeed Kofi Annan Jan. 1, 2007.

: Pyongyang announces it has successfully carried out a nuclear test; the world denounces it. Seismic evidence confirms a test, but its exact size and degree of success are unclear.

: South Korea Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon is confirmed as the next United Nations secretary general, to succeed Kofi Annan on Jan. 1, 2007.

: U.N. Security Council issues unanimous statement that a nuclear test would “jeopardize peace, stability and security in the region and beyond.”

: On the eve of election as UN secretary general, South Korea’s FM, Ban pledges to make North Korea a priority and to seek an early visit to Pyongyang, which Annan has not done in a decade.

: North Korea announces that it would conduct a nuclear test at an unspecified future date.

: North Korea warns that it will carry out a nuclear test. South Korea and many others, including the U.S. and China, urge it not to.

: At the North’s request, the first inter-Korean military talks since July’s missile tests are held at Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Pyongyang demands a halt to anti-communist activities by conservative ROK civic and religious groups, including sending messages across the border by balloon.

: Nine ROK lawmakers from several parties visit the DPRK’s Kaesong industrial zone, just across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), where 15 Southern firms employ 8,700 Northern workers to make export goods worth $6 million monthly.

Date Range