Senior official: North Korea demanded millions in aid to participate in summit

Posted on : 2013-01-09 11:48 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Lack of official meetings under Lee administration may be attributable to refusal to provide aid

By Ahn Chang-hyun, staff reporter

The reason no inter-Korean summits were held under the Lee Myung-bak administration is because North Korea demanded between US$500 million and US$600 million worth of aid in exchange for participation, a senior government official claimed on Jan. 2.

During a meeting with reporters, the senior official who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “there has been a lot of dialogue between North and South under the [Lee] administration, and we’ve had numerous discussions toward holding a summit meeting, but they didn’t work out because North Korea was demanding rice, fertilizer, and things like that as a condition for participating in talks.”

The official said the materials demanded by Pyongyang were worth between roughly US$500 million to US$600 million.

This is the first time a senior Lee administration official has gone on record about summit plans being thwarted by North Korean demands. In October 2009, representatives from the two countries met in Singapore to exchange memoranda of understanding for a summit meeting, but failed to reach a final agreement.

Yim Tae-hee, who was Minister of Labor at the time, stated that he had reached a specific agreement on holding a summit, including the date and time, during a secret meeting with Workers’ Party of Korea unified front department director Kim Yang-gon. Pyongyang likewise reported a secret June 2011 meeting in Beijing to arrange for a summit.

The official tied the ROKS Cheonan sinking and North Korean artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island, both in 2010, to the summits’ failure.

“You could view [the] Cheonan [sinking] and [the] Yeonpyeong [shelling] as having happened because South Korea did not do what it had done in the past” with regard to summit meetings, the official said. “They resisted in their own ‘North Korean’ way because [Seoul] did not meet their desired conditions.”

The official went to say that summits could have taken place at any time had Seoul met Pyongyang’s terms.

“The question of what the terms are for a summit is an intrinsic issue in inter-Korean relations,” the official explained, adding that the only term Seoul set in its meeting with North Korea was that it give up its nuclear program.

“We don’t have any demands besides that,” the official said.

The official described the Cheonan sinking as a “major watershed” in the administration’s North Korea policy.

“There have been substantial limits to our ability to improve inter-Korean relations since then.”


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