North Korea - South Korea

Chronology from Jun 2004 to Oct 2004

: South Korea’s Defense Ministry (MND) says 2005 defense budget is likely to be 20.8 trillion won ($17.3 billion), 9.9 percent increase. It had sought a 12.6 percent rise, to strengthen capabilities against North Korea. (The proposed budget equates to the North’s entire GNP.)

: Amid signs that North Korea may be preparing a missile test, ROK Foreign Minister Ban, meeting Secretary of State Powell in New York, warns the DPRK that any such launch would impact negatively on inter-Korean ties, including Kaesong.

: ROK’s commerce, industry and energy ministry (MOCIE) confirms that 107 tons of sodium cyanide (which can make nerve gas), exported to China without permission, ended up in North Korea. The Southern exporter was sentenced to 18 months in jail.

: MOU announces that the ROK state-run Export-Import Bank of Korea (Exim) will insure Southern investors in the North for between 90 percent (Kaesong) and 70 percent (elsewhere) of any losses in case of agreements broken, remittances blocked, wealth confiscated, war, etc.

: South Korea’s ruling Uri party and two small opposition parties, the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) and Millennium Democratic Party (MDP), agree to submit a joint bill to abolish the National Security Law (NSL), the cornerstone of anticommunism since the ROK was founded in 1948. Inter alia, the NSL defines North Korea as “an anti-state body.”

: A ceremony to mark the completion of an ROK office in the Kaesong Industrial Zone (KIZ) is called off after the North bars 11 lawmakers of the main opposition GNP. It later relents, and the event is rescheduled for Oct. 21.

: First Hyundai Asan shuttle bus takes workers from Seoul to Kaesong. After two months of daily test runs, a full shuttle service across the DMZ will begin later this year.

: South Korea says the North’s mushroom cloud may just have been a weather formation. Seoul media deplore the shortcomings of their country’s intelligence.

: South Korea approves four more firms – making apparel, kitchenware, plastics, and machinery – for the KIZ first phase, bringing the total to 11. Four more await the results of U.S.-ROK negotiations on possible exemptions for Kaesong of strategic goods whose export to regimes deemed threatening is normally restricted under the Wassenaar Arrangement.

: South Korea says it is consulting with KEDO on how to compensate ROK firms’ losses due to the halted construction of two light-water reactors in North Korea. KEPCO, the lead contractor, has already disbursed $8 million to subcontractors to this end. The North has banned the removal of equipment from the Kumho site.

: An MOU source says that removal of propaganda installations along the DMZ has stalled and is unlikely to resume while the North continues to boycott inter-Korean dialogue.

: Sources in Seoul claim that a large mushroom cloud was seen over northern North Korea three days earlier. The ROK unification minister rules out a nuclear test.

: North Korea’s Foreign Ministry says it “cannot help but link” recent revelations of nuclear transgressions by South Korea with six-party talks on its own nuclear activities. Adding that, “we can’t give up our nuclear plan at all under such circumstances,” the North calls for a “thorough and transparent” investigation.

: MOST admits earlier unauthorized nuclear experiment in 1982; this time extracting plutonium, and again said to be by scientists acting on their own.

: Representatives of ROK Democratic Labor Party (DLP) travel to Mt. Kumgang to meet with delegates from the DPRK’s Social Democratic Party (SDP), in what is billed as the first inter-Korean meeting of political parties.

: Lawmakers from South Korea’s ruling Uri Party express concern over the North Korean Human Rights Act currently before the U.S. Congress, which they fear may adversely affect inter-Korean reconciliation.

: South Korea’s science and technology ministry (MOST) admits that ROK scientists enriched some uranium in 2000. It claims this was done without the government’s knowledge or authorization, so was not reported at the time to the IAEA.

: South Korean and U.S. officials agree on what kinds of possible dual-use equipment are allowed to be brought into the Kaesong Industrial Zone (KIZ) by Southern companies.

: North Korea boycotts the 10th session of the inter-Korean Economic Cooperation Promotion Committee (ECPC), due to be held in Seoul.

: U.S. and ROK forces hold annual joint exercise “Ulchi Focus Lens,” whose aim is to strengthen deterrence against North Korea. The latter protests, as usual.

: Athletes from both Koreas march together in the opening ceremony of the Athens Olympic Games, as in Sydney in 2000.

: ROK police prevent DPRK defector Kim Deok-hong from holding a press conference at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents Club. In an internet conference, he repeats his claim that since last May, several anti-government underground organizations are active in the North.

: North Korea denies reports that Kim Kwang-bin, said to be its top nuclear scientist, has defected, as allegedly claimed by South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

: North Korea boycotts 15th inter-Korean ministerial talks, due to be held in Seoul Aug. 3-6. South Korea expresses regret and urges the North to return to the talks.

: ROK Unification Ministry reports that inter-Korean exchange visits were up 74 percent in the first half of 2004 over the same period last year. 9,545 South Koreans went North, not including the 82,444 tourists to Mt. Kumgang; while 321 DPRK citizens visited the South.

: ROK Red Cross informs DPRK counterpart of plans to send more aid to help rebuild Ryongchon, the scene of a huge explosion in April.

: The North denounces the Vietnam refugee airlift as “systematic and planned allurement and abduction and a crime of terror committed in broad daylight.”

: A second airlift from Vietnam brings the total of defector arrivals to 468.

: Amid tight media restrictions, over 200 North Korean refugees fly into a Seoul military airport from an unnamed Southeast Asian country (in fact Vietnam).

: Northern and Southern NGO delegations fail to agree on holding the usual joint Liberation Day celebrations Aug. 15.

: A scheduled third working-level head delegates’ meeting for the military talks is cancelled as the North fails to respond.

: A cross-party group of 86 ROK lawmakers submits a bill to the National Assembly to revise the Law on Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation. This would let South Koreans just inform the government of contacts with North Koreans rather than having to seek permission.

: The Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) reports that in the first half of this year inter-Korean trade grew 21 percent to $325 million. South Korea imported goods worth $116 million from the North, mostly agro-fisheries and textile products; while shipping $209 million worth, mostly chemicals and textiles.

: The two Koreas agree that 100,000 tons of this year’s rice “loan” from South to North will be sent overland via the Kaesong and Donghae corridors. Transportation begins July 20. The remaining 300,000 tons, which South Korea is to buy abroad, will arrive by sea.

: DPRK patrol boat crosses the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in pursuit of Chinese poachers, but retreats minutes later after an ROK vessel fires warning shots.

: A 10th round of family reunions is held at Mt. Kumgang. A select 100 from one side meets a larger number of kin from the other side in successive 3-day sessions.

: North Korea notifies the South by telephone that it will not attend the fifth inter-Korean maritime cooperation working-level contact, set for July 13-15 in the ROK.

: South Korea introduces new procedures for approving joint projects and visits to the Kaesong Industrial Zone (KIZ).

: North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland (CPRF) denounces South Korea for banning a Southern condolence delegation from visiting the North to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of the DPRK’s founding “great leader,” Kim Il-sung.

: Working-level military talks in Kaesong agree to keep open their new wireless communications to prevent accidental clashes in the West Sea, and to start the second phase of removing propaganda at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). South Korea says the hotline has worked normally since July 1, and that the North promised to respond to messages in future.

: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visits Seoul and meets President Roh Moo-hyun. He continues to Pyongyang, where he meets Kim Jong-il.

: Some 29 of the GNP’s 121 National Assembly members visit Mt. Kumgang. North Korea refuses to talk to them, but they join a 1,000-strong party for the reopening of a hotel refurbished by Hyundai Asan, at which the DPRK for the first time now allows North Koreans to work.

: A row erupts in Seoul over the decision of a presidential commission to classify three North Korean agents, who died in Southern jails in the 1970s after refusing to renounce communism, as fighters for democracy against military rule.

: The 10th working contact for relinking roads and railways ends at Mt. Kumgang. A 5-point agreement is signed, covering: designs for constructing stations on the newly connected sectors of the Seoul-Sinuiju and Donghae railroads, future schedules, supply of road safety materials necessary for road opening in October, and technical assistance for railroad and road works in signals, communications, and electricity systems.

: ROK and DPRK foreign ministers meet at ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Jakarta, and issue a joint statement. Seoul reportedly seeks to exchange liaison offices.

: Chung Dong-young takes office as South Korea’s new unification minister.

: Working talks on road and rail links are held at Mt. Kumgang.

: A ground-breaking ceremony is held at the Kaesong Industrial Zone for the first pilot phase of the project. 350 dignitaries from both sides attend.

: In a mini-reshuffle in Seoul, Chung Dong-young, ex-head of ruling Uri Party, is appointed unification minister, replacing Jeong Se-hyun who has held the post for two years.

: The floor leader of South Korea’s ruling Uri Party suggests a bipartisan visit to Pyongyang by leaders of Uri and Grand National Party (GNP), the conservative main opposition, which could lead to a North-South parliamentary meeting.

: Working talks on road and rail links are held at Mt. Kumgang.

: Both Koreas’ central bank chiefs, Park Seung (ROK) and Kim Wan-soo (DPRK), meet for the first time in Basel at the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) annual assembly. Park had urged the BIS to invite North Korea to this meeting.

: A second-round working-level consultative meeting on construction of the Kaesong Industrial Zone is held in Kaesong in the DPRK. At the same time, a meeting of the two sides’ foreign trade banks initials an agreement on clearing payments.

: A third round of full six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear issue is held in Beijing, preceded by working talks on June 21-22.

: Propaganda loudspeakers on both sides of DMZ are switched off, as agreed.

: A 7-member DPRK delegation visits Seoul for the fourth anniversary of the June 2000 Pyongyang summit. Its head, Ri Jong-hyok, brings a message to President Roh from Kim Jong-il, prompting rumors that he may visit Seoul. A large-scale “Meeting of our Nation” is held in the ROK port of Inchon, uniting civic groups from both Koreas.

: For the first time, the ROK and DPRK navies share information about Chinese vessels fishing illegally in Korean waters in the West Sea (Yellow Sea).

: The ROK and DPRK navies communicate by wireless for the first time since the 1953 Armistice, in five areas near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), using standard international radio frequencies (156.80 and 156.60 MHz).

: Working-level military talks on the recent agreement are held at Kaesong.

: The two Koreas’ Red Cross bodies agree to hold 10th round of family reunions July 11-16.

: Koland selects the first 15 firms to set up in Kaesong Industrial Zone. They include a watchmaker, an apparel firm, and a kitchen and bath fixture manufacturer. Criteria for selection included financial soundness, labor-intensivity, and small scale.

: A second round of senior military talks held at the ROK’s Mt. Sorak; parties agree on steps to avoid sea clashes, including a hotline. They also agree that cross-border propaganda at the DMZ will cease, with all loudspeakers and signboards to be dismantled by Aug. 15. Separately, on June 3 both Korean navies trade accusations of intruding in each others’ waters.

: South Korean construction company imports 1,000 tons of sand from the North by truck across the DMZ, the first time any imports have been allowed overland.

: Ninth inter-Korean economic talks are held in Pyongyang. Agreements include to press on with cross-border roads and make test runs on two trans-DMZ railways in October; to set up a joint agency to run the Kaesong Industrial Park, headed by a South Korean; and for Seoul to “lend” 400,000 tons of rice. A maritime agreement is also signed, but has still to be ratified.

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