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Resolutions to inter-Korean relations show stark partisan divide


North Korea resurged as a point of division in the National Assembly on Monday, as ruling and opposition parties pushed starkly different resolutions on the 20th anniversary of the first inter-Korean summit.

The ruling Democratic Party on Monday called on the two Koreas to abide by all inter-Korean agreements and reverse the tide of deteriorating relations. Meanwhile, the opposition party criticized Pyongyang’s recent harsh rhetoric and urged the South Korean military to maintain its readiness.

On the 20th anniversary of the very first inter-Korean summit held on June 15, Democratic Party Chairman Lee Hae-chan stressed that the key to resolve the relationship between South and North Korea is trust and patience.

“The government should show North Korea that we are doing our best to keep the promises by actively implementing summit agreements and the National Assembly should support the effort,” he said during a meeting of the party’s supreme council Monday.

He also urged the North to deepen its understanding of differences in the political systems of Seoul and Pyongyang and to put more trust in President Moon Jae-in’s government and the ruling party.

Looking back at the two decades since the June 15 summit, Floor Leader Kim Tae-nyeon said maintaining consistency in policy and giving the force of law to inter-Korean agreements were the hard-won lessons critical to moving the relations forward.

Stressing the need for the US’ cooperation to improve inter-Korean relations, Kim urged Washington to allow sanctions exemptions to revive joint economic projects such as the Kaesong industrial park and tours to Kumgangsan.

Tensions flared up on the peninsula in recent weeks as the North vowed to cut off all inter-Korean lines of communication, denouncing leafleting as a hostile act that violates a series of peace agreements. The regime also threatened to abandon key inter-Korean peace agreements reached by their leaders in 2018.

On Monday, a total of 173 lawmakers, including 168 Democratic Party lawmakers, proposed a resolution calling for a formal end to the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended with an armistice.

The resolution urges South and North Korea, the US and China to swiftly declare an end to the war and to initiate discussions on a legally binding peace treaty.

President Moon has advocated an end-of-war declaration to build trust and persuade the North to move toward giving up its nuclear weapons.

Along with the resolution, the ruling party is considering ratification of a 2018 inter-Korean military pact, legislating a ban on the sending of leaflets and dispatching a special envoy to North Korea.

The dovish remarks and gestures made by the ruling party invited strong opposition from the main opposition United Future Party.

Lawmakers from the conservative party called for the immediate withdrawal of the resolution regarding the end-of-war declaration.

Rep. Shin Won-sik, who served as vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said the North falls behind to fulfill its prerequisite for the declaration, citing its hostile policy toward the South and nuclear arsenal issues that have remained unchanged.

“Those two issues should be resolved in order to build military trust and establish a verification system for it which will be precondition for the genuine end-of-war declaration on the peninsula,” he said.

The opposition party plans to propose a resolution, signed by all of 103 lawmakers belong to the party, urging Pyongyang to halt provocations.

Floor Leader Joo Ho-young said the Moon government’s Korean Peninsula Peace Process and what he called its policy of appeasement toward North Korea had resulted in condemnation and mockery of the South’s government and the president as well as a warning of military provocations.

Comparing Moon’s policy with the Kim Dae-jung government’s “Sunshine Policy,” he said the late president had been vocal about the North’s human rights and reforms while engaging the country, but the current administration has been keeping mum on those issues.

By Park Han-na (