North Korea - South Korea

Chronology from Apr 2008 to Jul 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).

: 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”.

: 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.

: 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.

: 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).’”

: 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”.

: 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.”

: 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.

: 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.

: 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.

: 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.

: 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.

: 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.

: Six-Party Talks on the North Korean nuclear issue resume in Beijing, after a hiatus of nine months.

: 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.

: 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.

: 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.

: 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.

: In Seoul, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – a former ROK foreign minister – offers to play “a facilitator role” in improving inter-Korean relations.

: 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.

: 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.

: The Korea Herald quotes as unnamed ROK official as saying that on April 8 two KPA fighter jets flew within 10 km of the Military Demarcation Line (MDL). This is the closest DPRK aircraft have flown to the inter-Korean border in recent years.

: North Korea expels a Southern procurement supervisor from a construction site at Mt. Kumgang, where the South is building a $60 million family reunion center. Later that day the North also blocks another ROK procurement official from entering the zone.

: The GNP narrowly wins control of the National Assembly, taking 153 out of 299 seats in South Korea’s parliamentary election. The GNP victory is less overwhelming that in December’s presidential election. Two other conservative groups also do well.

: Minju Joson, daily paper of the DPRK Cabinet, attacks Seoul media claims that recent Northern criticism of Lee Myung-bak was intended to influence ROK national assembly elections as “a sophism for distorting truth.”

: The South’s Defense Ministry (MND) officially renames a June 2002 marine firefight as the “Second Yeonpyeong Sea Battle”; saying its previous name, “Exchange of Fire in the West Sea,” did not reflect its significance. The government rather than their military units will henceforth host the memorial service for the six ROK sailors killed.

: Senior Southern sports officials say plans to field joint inter-Korean athletic and cheering squads at the Beijing Olympics in August are stalled. They have been rebuffed twice by Northern counterparts when they tried to raise the matter recently.

: Rodong Sinmun criticizes the ROK for “following the U.S. imperialists”. It warns that those who “dance to the whistle of outside forces will only suffer a collapse.”

: ROK unification minister Kim Ha-joong says Seoul will not riposte but wait until Pyongyang’s misunderstanding eases, adding: “Our position toward mutual respect and co-prosperity between the two Koreas remains firm.”

: The leftish Seoul daily Hankyoreh reports that North Korea has asked China for massive rice aid, having decided not to request this or fertilizer from South Korea unless Seoul moves to improve ties. Beijing has yet to respond.

: In a telephone conversation with outgoing Russian president Vladimir Putin, President Lee reportedly seeks continued efforts to link the trans-Korean and trans-Siberian railways as well as other tripartite cooperation projects involving North Korea.

: KCNA reports undated visits by Kim Jong-il to different KPA bases on three successive days, and again on April 9. On April 7, it quotes Kim as saying the KPA could “beat back the enemy’s invasion at a single stroke.”

: Kim Yong-dae, presidium vice chairman of the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA, the North’s rubber-stamp parliament), urges South Korea’s new administration to adhere to past inter-Korean agreements and their spirit, and not to raise tensions.

: Rodong Sinmun attacks “pro-U.S. conservative ruling forces in south Korea hell-bent on dependence on foreign forces and confrontation with fellow countrymen.”

: In a lengthy article, Uriminzokkiri calls Lee a traitor. It urges all Koreans to “step up their struggle against [his] anti-tribal and anti-unification scheme”.

: The North’s DFRF accuses “South Korea’s conservative regime” of “driving north-south relations to confrontation and catastrophe, blatantly swimming against the trend of the era of independence, reunification, peace and prosperity.”

: The KPA Navy Command assails ROK “warmongers” for “perpetrating a serious military provocation” in the West (Yellow) Sea. The ROK navy retorts that its three patrol boats were south of the Northern Limit Line (NLL) and were there to stop Chinese fishing boats in Northern waters from crossing.

: The head of the DPRK delegation to inter-Korean general-level military talks warns ROK military authorities that the North will take “prompt corresponding military countermeasures.”  He dismisses the South’s reply as “nothing but an excuse” in relation to earlier “outbursts let loose” by the chairman of the ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff.

: A 6-strong Southern civic delegation visits Mt. Kumgang to discuss events to mark the June 2000 joint declaration. The North warns that this event’s success depends on both sides’ attitude.

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