Declaring South fellow countrymen no longer, Pyongyang shutters inter-Korean exchange bodies

Posted on : 2024-01-15 17:48 KST Modified on : 2024-01-15 17:48 KST
The disbandment of entities dedicated to affairs with the South comes after leader Kim Jong-un pledged to shift relations with Seoul
People fill Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang and fireworks light up the sky at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. (KCNA/Yonhap)
People fill Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang and fireworks light up the sky at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. (KCNA/Yonhap)

North Korea announced it will shutter organizations dedicated to exchange with the South in light of inter-Korean relations becoming “completely fixed as the relations of two hostile and belligerent countries, not those of fellow countrymen,” according to reports by state media on Saturday. 

The Workers’ Party of Korea-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper reported that Pyongyang had “decided to readjust all relevant organizations” of the North, including the North Side Committee for Implementing June 15 Joint Declaration, the North Headquarters of the Pan-national Alliance for Korea’s Reunification, the Consultative Council for National Reconciliation and the Council for the Reunification of Tangun’s Nation. 

“Organized as solidarity organizations for the improvement of the north-south relations and peaceful reunification in the past period,” the paper noted, these entities would be disbanded “in the view of the reality that the north-south relations have been completely fixed as the relations of two hostile and belligerent countries, not those of fellow countrymen and the same quality any longer.”

The organizations mentioned in the statement are North Korean entities that had been tasked with inter-Korean relations since the 1990s, designed to alleviate Cold War tensions. 

The newspaper reported that a meeting was convened on Friday to implement the changes to the North’s policy on the South called for by leader Kim Jong-un at a party plenum in December. The report refers to South Korea as “puppets” and “the main enemy of the DPRK.”

The Rodong Sinmun reported that Kim called for “newly formulating the reunification policy” that aims to make South Korea “completely wiped out.” This “radical turn in the principle and orientation of the struggle in the field in charge of the affairs with the south” will make “preparations for a great event in a foresighted way in keeping with the powerful military action of the Korean People's Army to suppress the whole territory of the southern half of the Republic.”

Kim seems to be following up on declarations he made during a WPK meeting at the end of last year, in which he stated he no longer considers inter-Korean relations to be those of a single people divided but rather “relations between two states hostile to each other.” During this meeting, Kim pledged to disband or reorganize North Korean entities tasked with inter-Korean relations. 

The "North Headquarters of the Pan-national Alliance for Korea's Reunification" refers to the North Korean entity in the Pan-Korea Alliance for Reunification, a nongovernmental organization formed in Berlin on Nov. 20, 1990. The North Korean body was officially launched on Jan. 25, 1991, while its “foreign affairs office” was founded on Dec. 17, 1990. The South Korean entity was launched on Feb. 25, 1995. However, the South Korean Supreme Court classified it as a “collaborative group that supports the interests of the enemy” in 1997. 

Originally founded as a “three-party allied unification movement,” the organization mostly wilted following the adoption of a reunification-oriented joint declaration by the two Koreas in 2000. The organization is tied to the late Moon Ik-hwan, a South Korean pastor who traveled to North Korea in March 1989, where he met with then-North Korean leader Kim Il-sung twice. On April 2 of that year, as an adviser for the National Alliance for Democracy and the Reunification of Korea, Moon met with Ho Dam, who was head of North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea. The two signed a joint statement containing nine agreements, which formed the crux of the Pan-Korea Alliance for Reunification. 

The June 15 South-North Joint Declaration was formulated in July 2000 after the first inter-Korean summit. The agreement involved two separate South Korean committees, the foreign affairs committee and the South Korean committee (representing the South in inter-Korean affairs). The statement eventually became a de facto replacement of the Pan-Korea Alliance for Reunification and its mission for a “three-party unification movement.” 

However, the June 15 agreements came under pressure with every South Korean election that favored hard-liners. The “Consultative Council for National Reconciliation” refers to the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation, which was founded in 1998 to facilitate cultural and social exchange between the two Koreas. The organization also sought to facilitate “humanitarian exchanges,” but as it has performed no official functions in the past few years, there is a widespread understanding of it being defunct for all intents and purposes. 

Additionally, although no official reports from North Korea have confirmed this, the websites for North Korean propaganda outlets tasked with creating content for South Koreans have not been accessible since Thursday. These outlets usually have their internet servers based in China. Such outlets include Uriminzokkiri, Echo of Unification, Ryugyong, DPRK Today, and Ryomyong. It’s possible such outlets have been disbanded as part of Kim Jong-un’s reformation campaign. Pyongyang Broadcasting System, the North’s network designed for South Korean consumption, has not been broadcasting since Friday, according to Yonhap News.   

By Lee Je-hun, senior staff writer

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