06/20/2006, 00.00
Send to a friend

Pyongyang's arrogance casts shadow on two peace meetings

by Pino Cazzaniga

The North Korean envoy invited widespread indignation by talking about threats of war linked to a victory of the Grand National Party. At a Nobel Peace Prize conference, meanwhile, Gorbachev talked about the division of Korea as "fruit of the Cold War" and urged all to resolve conflicts in "national terms".

Seoul (AsiaNews) – North Korea has thrown a shadow on two events which were intended by organisers to encourage the process of reconciliation on the Korean peninsula. These were the inter-Korean festival scheduled to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the leadership meeting between Kim Dae-jung (then president of South Korea) and Kim Jong-il, leader of the north (15 June 2000). Then there was also the annual Nobel Peace Prize conference. The two meetings, which took place from 14 to 17 June in Kwangju, a city around 300km south-west of Seoul, should not be considered as a single celebration although they took place at the same time. The first failed because of the arrogance of Pyongyang, and the second posed important conditions for peace in the Korean peninsula, thanks to the political experience and wisdom of the two co-chairmen: Kim Dae-jung, and Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the dismantled Soviet Union.

Since 18 May 1980, Kwangju has been considered as a sacred place for South Korea's democratic movement. "On that day, special assault squads brutally opened fire on people who were taking part in a peaceful demonstration against the military dictatorship, killing many people," recalled Kim in his opening speech at the Nobel Prize conference. In fact, 250 activists and students were massacred, according to official data, a figure which increases to 2,000 in the estimates of relatives of the victims. The military are said to have burned the bodies and thrown the ashes into the sea.

The Chinese tragedy in Tiananmen Square (1989) is often highlighted by Korean media as the Chinese version of the insurrection in Kwangju.

The North Koreans were treated as the most important guests in the ceremony for the opening of the festival, for which 30,000 people crowded into the city stadium. However, they behaved like masters, transforming the celebration into a carnival of propaganda and bad taste.

Starting out from Pyongyang, the head of the North Korean delegation, Ahn Kyong-ho, said "if the Grand National Party (GNP) takes power (in the south), Korea will be enveloped in flames by a war unleashed by the United States." The arrogant phrase drew waves of indignation from all sectors in South Korea. "An absurd observation", wrote the columnist of the editorial of the Korea Times. "No South Korean, liberal or conservative, would allow a war under any pretext. It is a basic rule of education to try to be cordial and to avoid offensive expressions when you visit someone. But Ahn's statements make us wonder if he knows the basic principles of human relations." The spokesman of the insulted party did not hesitate to rebuke the government of the president Moh Moo-hyun: "We should question the identity of this administration which allows Ahn to wander around the streets of South Korea. We should arrest him and deport him."

Ahn sought to patch things up by telling the head of the South Korean delegation that his observation was not intended to be inflammatory. His efforts were in vain. On the same day, in Pyongyang, the speaker of the state media station reiterated the statement: "We have simply said the truth as necessary medicine for the Grand National Party. We warn it that if it does not mend its bad habits, it has no future." Pathetic propaganda intended for use. Only two weeks ago, the GNP won an overwhelming victory in nearly all the provinces!

These statements and the content of several speeches transformed the festival into an anti-American charade and a theatre for inter-Korean antagonism.

It was only thanks to the Nobel Prize conference that the "three days" of Kwangju had a positive and, one hopes, lasting outcome. These study meetings have been held in Rome every year since 1999. This time, it was held in Kwangju, under the patronage of Yonsei University of Seoul. Fourteen Nobel peace laureates were present. Two conspicuous by their absence: the former American president Jimmy Carter (Nobel 2002) and the Dalai Lama (Nobel 2003). The high level of tension between Washington and Pyongyang explains the absence of the first and Seoul's refusal to grant a visa explains the second… the shadow of China.

The introductory speeches of the two co-chairmen outlined the historical-political beginnings of the current lamentable situation. Gorbachev said: "The division of the peninsula was the product of the clash between the ex-superpowers and the Cold War. Korea should not be kept hostage by the interests of the superpowers." There was a veiled allusion to China too. "Time is needed to resolve the peninsula's problems," continued Gorbachev. "The conflicts of north and south should be sorted out in national terms".

The "Kwangju declaration", the concluding document of the conference, was sent to the heads of governments involved in the "six party talks", to the United Nations and to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Send to a friend
Printable version
See also
Tensions between Seoul and Pyongyang rise as Cold War fears cast a shadow over Korea
12/02/2016 15:14
Justice and Peace Committees against government polices
Tension rises between the two Koreas, economic agreements and humanitarian aid at risk
Lee tries to confirm his victory in parliamentary elections
Lee’s party wins elections, Seoul now waiting for reforms


Subscribe to Asia News updates or change your preferences

Subscribe now
“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”