Earlier this month South Korean K-pop singers performed in Pyeongyang, North Korea for the first time in more than a decade. The concert, titled “Spring is Coming”, consisted of a lineup of popular South Korean performers including several veteran vocalists who previously performed in front of the North Korean audience. The most notable audience members of the concert were the North’s leader Kim Jong-un and his wife, Ri Sol-ju.
The performers’ visit reciprocated performances by the North Korean art troupe in South Korea during its Winter Olympic Games in February. On the occasion of and after the Games, the two Koreas exchanged their special envoys and finally agreed to hold the historic inter-Korean summit at the truce village of Panmunjeom on April 27th. Such good news was followed by the surprising news of the North Korea-US planned summit meeting to be held in late May.
In retrospect of a few months ago, the military tension surrounding the Korean peninsula was at its peak and held the possibility to develop into accidental military conflagrations. North Korea never stopped military provocations such as launching ICBM missiles, sometimes followed up with verbal threatening. On the other hand, President Trump’s officials were debating military options against North Korea. These included possible “preventive” strikes, whether through full-scale operation or by giving North Korea a “bloody nose”, both of which might flare up into unspeakably dangerous consequences. The US sometimes deployed strategic assets over and on the Korean peninsula.
Compared with the high tension at that time, the peaceful detente mood that is present now is quite remarkable. What a wonderful water-shedding change it is! Of course, the scheduled inter-Korean summit was not agreed upon in a short time, rather it was matured and prepared since several months before. Beginning with his Berlin Initiative, South Korean president Moon Jae-in has pursued consistent policies toward the North and sought positive responses from them. As I understand, he has excellent leadership as well as patience and humbleness which expedited the process of reaching agreements on the two summits. The Moon administration will continue to carry out very constructive and mediating roles between the U.S. and North Korea as well.
Not only the US but China has been playing an active role in bringing North Korea back to the negotiating table for denuclearisation in addition to contributing to the success of the upcoming two summits.
All the Korean people as well as the international community are looking forward to seeing the inter-Korean summit work out quite successful results. We hope that it can lay the foundation for the denuclearisation which is the only way to settling permanent peace on the Korean peninsula. There will hopefully be heart-to-heart discussions on various matters including a range of measures to prevent military conflicts, ease military tension and build mutual trust.
At the South-North Korea summit, we also expect, progress in inter-Korean relations will be discussed in a balanced manner. Overall issues for the promotion of better inter-Korean relations, such as inter-Korean talks, exchanges and cooperation as well as humanitarian concerns need to be discussed.
Inter-Korean relations have remained severed for a while thus deteriorating, and the lack of trust between the US and North Korea still have been prevalent. So, it will be of great significance for the two Koreas to set out a first step to recover the mutual trust through candid and open-minded talks, and bridge the gap between the US and North Korea. We are eager to see spring coming on the Korean peninsula.
The writer is the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea.