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Speeches and Contributions

Congratulatory Speech at an academic conference marking the 19th anniversary of the June 15 Inter-Korean Summit


Congratulatory Speech at an academic conference marking the 19th anniversary of the June 15 Inter-Korean Summit

10:00 on June 13, 2019 at the Kim Dae-Jung Presidential Library and Museum of Yonsei University

Congratulatory Speech

By Unification Minister Kim Yeon Chul

Good morning.
It’s good to see you all. I am Unification Minister Kim Yeon Chul.
First of all, I keep in mind the last words of former First Lady Lee Hee-ho. She said that she would pray for the peaceful unification of the Korean Peninsula even in heaven.

I believe that she makes today’s conference marking the 19th anniversary of the June 15 Inter-Korean Summit even much more meaningful.

I would like to express my gratitude to Park Jie-won of the Party for Democracy and Peace, Director Park Myeong-rim of the Kim Dae-Jung Presidential Library and Museum, and Director Jeong Se-hyun of the Korea Peace Forum for organizing this conference.

I would also like to extend my appreciation to former Unification Minister Lim Dong-won for giving the keynote speech and all the other participants for hosting this event, making presentations, and engaging in discussions today.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent a condolence card and flowers yesterday.

Both South and North Korea remember Mrs. Lee for her dedication. She fulfilled her duties at every important moment in inter-Korean relations including the June 15 Inter-Korean Summit.

I believe that she will always be with us on the path toward peace on the Korean Peninsula even in heaven.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
The June 15 Inter-Korean Summit was an epochal moment in inter-Korean relations.

The June 15 Inter-Korean Summit in 2000 was the first such meeting since national division, and it was a truly historical event in itself.

Before that, a meeting of the leaders of South and North Korea was only possible in our imagination. However, former President Kim Dae-jung’s determination and passion to improve inter-Korean relations translated the imagination into realty.

The June 15 South-North Joint Declaration, the outcome of the first inter-Korean summit, was an important milestone that has greatly advanced inter-Korean relations.

The South and the North agreed to recognize and respect each other’s system and strive for common prosperity. Both sides shared the view that unification is a process that the two Koreas should carry out gradually, step by step.

Of course, there were many significant agreements between the South and the North before that, but the June 15 Inter-Korean Summit imparted momentum for inter-Korean relations to transform from “an era of agreement” to “an era of practice.”

The success of the June 15 Inter-Korean Summit also led to the DPRK-US Joint Communique and then-US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s visit to the North.

The year 2000 saw the triangular relationship between South and North Korea and the US enter a “perfect virtuous cycle” in the history of the Korean Peninsula.

We found new hope that if the South and the North, the parties directly involved in the matter of the Korean Peninsula, could become united, the two Koreas could resolve their mutual hostilities and bring down the barriers of confrontation, which were left by national division and the Cold War, and could explore the future of Korea at their own initiative.

Ladies and gentlemen,
I believe that it was the historic first inter-Korean summit and the June 15 South-North Joint Declaration of 19 years ago that made possible last year’s three inter-Korean summit meetings and their outcomes the Panmunjeom – Declaration and the Pyeongyang Joint Declaration.

It was the experience of the virtuous cycle of inter-Korean and North Korea-US relations in 2000 that led inter-Korean dialogue to progress in North Korea-US relations and then to the two rounds of the North Korea-US summit for the first time in history.

However, there is still a long way to go. After a spate of development in relations, South and North Korea and the US are now catching their breath again and preparing for resumption of negotiations.

The choice we make now will determine our future and the future of our posterity.

At a time like this, I believe that we need to find a lesson in history.

The government will keep in mind the spirit of the June 15 South-North Joint Declaration – mutual respect and trust, peace, and reciprocity; unwaveringly implement the inter-Korean joint declarations; and never relent on the journey toward peace on the Korean Peninsula. To this end, the meetings between the leaders of the two Koreas should continue.

The government is rendering humanitarian aid to the North in the spirit of humanitarianism and brotherhood. It recently rendered the funds to international organizations that help those in need in the North including infants and pregnant women. It is considering food aid to the North as well.

It will push ahead with video reunions and the renovation of a reunion center as its top priorities to ease even the slightest bit of the pain and sorrow of the separated families.

As President Moon Jae-in said in his speech in Oslo, the two Koreas constitute a “community of life” that must live together.

The government will work closely together with the North in order to ensure swift joint response to wildfires and damage from insects and infectious diseases that can occur in the border areas.

Genuine peace is the one thing that helps both sides. Thus, the government will do its best to ensure that peace on the Korean Peninsula materially benefits the people in their daily lives.

It will make sure that fishermen in the West Sea and residents in the border areas of Paju, Cheorwon, and Goseong can experience peace every day. We will know that peace is sustainable when people can freely come and go and their lives change for the better.

We need to execute the denuclearization and peace process in earnest through the virtuous cycle of inter-Korean, North Korea-US, and ROK-US relations.

Through these efforts, the government will completely restore inter-Korean relations and open the era of the “peace economy” on the Korean Peninsula next year, which marks the 20th anniversary of the June 15 Inter-Korean Summit. At long last, the people will be able to experience peace in their daily lives and peace will drive economic development.

I hope that this conference causes us all to ever afterwards recall the historic lessons of the June 15 Inter-Korean Summit, to explore its implications that we may break the current impasse in inter-Korean relations, and to find the power of collective intelligence.

Thank you.