President Moon Lays Out Five-Year Plan for Inter-Korean Cooperation

Above: One Korea by Jorge Silva, Reuters.

South Korea unveiled a five-year master plan for developing inter-Korean relations on December 3. The third of its kind, the plan lays out the objectives and direction of the government’s policy on inter-Korean relations for 2018-2022 and will replace the 2013 plan drawn up by the impeached president Park Geun-hye.

The plan includes:

  • Holding regular inter-Korean summits;
  • Holding regular high-level and sectoral inter-Korean talks; and
  • Expanding the infrastructure for inter-Korean talks

The plan outlines a two-track strategy of improving inter-Korean relations while simultaneously resolving the North Korea nuclear issue. On resolving the nuclear conflict, it emphasizes a “gradual and comprehensive” approach—a marked departure from the policy of the former Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye administrations.

On improving inter-Korean relations, the plan, which stresses “peaceful coexistence” and “mutual prosperity” as key priorities, outlines the following objectives:

  • Resolution of the North Korea nuclear issue and realization of lasting peace;
  • Sustained progress in inter-Korean relations;
  • Realization of a “new economic community on the Korean Peninsula”

It also outlines the following principles for the administration’s policy toward the North:

  • Resolve the Korean Peninsula conflict through our leadership;
  • Maintain peace through strong security
  • Advance inter-Korean relations based on mutual respect
  • Prioritize communication and consensus-building with citizens;
  • Pursue policies through cooperation with the international community

Two Koreas Move Ahead on Joint Railway and DMZ Peace Zone

South and North Korea held working-level talks on December 13 to hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the inter-Korean railway project. A group of South Korean officials and experts traveled to North Korea for a joint railway survey of 400 kilometers of the western Gyeong-gui Line as part of efforts to connect major railways along the divided peninsula. That inspection was completed on December 5, and a 10-day probe of the North’s eastern rail system is currently underway.

Representatives from the South and North Korean armies crossed the military demarcation line (MDL) to visit each other’s guard posts on December 12. According to The Hankyoreh:

These visits were aimed at verifying the tentative withdrawal from and demolition of guard posts in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in accordance with the Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA) that the two sides reached on Sept. 19. This was the first time since the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed in 1953 that the two Koreas have conducted inspections of each other’s military facilities. 

The two Koreas have also completed a joint inspection of the Han River estuary along their western border aimed at easing access to its restricted waterway following a September military agreement signed between the two sides.

U.S. Blacklisted Moon’s Plane After North Korea Flight

President Moon Jae-in’s official airplane has been blacklisted by the U.S. because it had flown him to North Korea, it emerged this week. The official plane even had to be cleared for a visit to the U.S. in September after it was slapped with a 180-day ban.

Trump Wants South Korea to Pay More for U.S. Troops

President Trump’s demand that South Korea increase its funding for U.S. troops deployed there has reportedly soured on-going negotiations over the Special Measures Agreement (SMA) between the two countries. The SMA’s five-year contract expires December 31 and currently requires South Korea to pay $830 million per year to the U.S. for the 28,500 U.S. troops based there.

The U.S. military has warned that South Koreans working on U.S. bases in South Korea will be furloughed if Seoul and Washington fail to reach a deal. U.S. ForcesKorea sent a letter to the Korean Employees Union warning that the military will be “required to issue a general furlough notice with an effective date of April 15, 2019,” if negotiations aren’t completed in a timely manner to avoid a lapse in funding, according to Stars and Stripes.