An agreement between North and South Korean leaders made in early October promises economic cooperation and peace efforts, but while goals for denuclearization and ending border violence indicate vast military improvement, human rights efforts are less clear.
declaration, signed Oct. 4 by South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun
and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, officially sought an end
to the Korean War, which has been held at an armistice since 1953,
and is largely aimed at establishing economic stability for both
Both sides promised to "promote economic cooperation though investments, infrastructure projects, natural resources development; and to give preferential treatment to each other," according to a statement from the South Korean Ministry of Unification.
North Korea, which has long been isolated in foreign trade agreements, seeks to join forces with the South on three main development projects in order to boost its economy.
First is an expansion of the Gaenseong Industrial Zone, an area 10 miles north of the demilitarized zone along the two countries' border, home to dozens of Korea's top manufacturing companies. The leaders also agreed to create a similar zone in Haeju to facilitate Korean manufacturing. Lastly, South Korea agreed to provide infrastructure support, including roads and railways, in the North.
"Inter-Korean economic cooperation projects are also expected to contribute to the establishment of peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia by reducing political and military tensions and strengthening regional cooperation," South Korean Deputy Prime Minster and head of the Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation Committee Kwon Okyu said in a statement.
The declaration sought to address military tensions across the 38th parallel, stating, "The South and the North have agreed to closely work together to put an end to military hostilities, mitigate tensions and guarantee peace on the Korean Peninsula."
Just days before the summit, North Korea announced it would shut down a major nuclear reactor and disclose all of its nuclear activities in exchange for aid.
"Hopefully, there will be less tension in particular along the
northern limit line" as a result of the agreement, observed U.S.
Air Force Col. Jeffrey Kendall of the Council on Foreign Relations.
However, despite the strides in settling military matters, other wording in the declaration raised some concern for human rights advocates.
"The South and the North have agreed not to interfere in the internal affairs of the other," the declaration states.
"That statement is really just confirmation of a decision that was made 10 years ago (for South Korea) to be silent," on human rights issues, said Peter Beck, executive director of the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.
The declaration did address some human rights matters, including intentions to reunite family members long-separated by war and efforts to clamp down on violence in a controversial joint fishing area.
But Beck said he was skeptical any genuine efforts would follow the pronouncements. "The separation of families is one of the human tragedies of war," he said. "While no one can say that they're opposed to unification, no one's really serious."
Kay Seok, Korean researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the declaration will not likely resolve other problems, such as political prisoner camps in North Korea and a rapidly growing sex trade in South Korea -- issues that will more likely be addressed via international pressure once the North's nuclear threat is off the table.
A meeting of high-level ministers is expected to take place in Pyongyang in November to form an inter-Korean ruling body to work out the details of how the nations will proceed, based on an already articulated level of cooperation.
"Kim Jong Il showed his full knowledge of most of the agendas that South Korea planned to put forward in the talks," Kwon said in his statement. "Kim made unambiguous approaches for each agenda with clear responses of approval, acceptance of disapproval. Kim's clear understanding surprised South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun."