High-ranking South and North Korean officials struck a deal in the early morning of Aug. 25 after a whopping four-day marathon of non-stop talks. The talks ran for a total of 43 hours and 10 minutes, from the afternoon of Aug. 22 to 12:55 am on Aug. 25. “North Korea expressed regret that land mines recently injured two South Korean soldiers in the southern side of the DMA,” said a joint press statement released by South and North Korea on Aug. 25. It is said that this expression of “regret” clearly indicated the main body of the provocation by making it clear that North Korea expressed regret about the landmine blast.
Many experts say that the fact that North Korea expressed regret at all is a meaningful enough result. Even though North Korea has committed numerous provocative acts since the truce in 1953, it has been rare for North Korea to acknowledge, apologize, or express regret about such acts. Also in the statement, North Korea decided to lift the quasi-state of war declared for troops near the front lines.
As a consequence, the Korean government decided to stop all of its anti-North Korean propaganda broadcasts beginning at noon today along the DMZ, unless an abnormal situation takes place. It is analyzed that both sides dramatically struck an agreement, as they strategically judged that they will lose more than they gain if they continue a military confrontation. In particular, North Korea judged that the anti-North Korean loudspeaker broadcasts damage the dignity of its supreme leader. Under these circumstances, South Korean President Park Geun-hye virtually set a guideline in a meeting with senior secretaries held on Aug. 24 while both sides were holding the meeting.
President Park came up with two principles – North Korea’s apology and promise not to commit such provocative acts again. The South Korean government made it clear that it will take strong measures unless North Korea accepts the two principles that the South Korean fairly demanded. The South Korean government showed a strong will not to engage in “talks for talks,” which can allow North Korea to shuffle out of its responsibilities.
It is generally analyzed that North Korea confirmed the strong stance of South Korea and showed a change in their attitude. President Park made it clear to North Korea that to stop provocative acts from repeating, it will be necessary for North Korea to offer a clear apology and promise not to repeat them. This means that President Park expressed her will to take stern measures against North Korea, while not allowing North Korea’s outdated thoughts and practices that produced some results by using a repeated “provocation, disguised dialog, compensation, additional provocation” strategy.
President Park took a hard line, saying, “Anti-North Korean broadcasts will not stop unless North Korea apologizes about North Korea’s demand to stop them” This has been the most important point for North Korea during the talks. It seems that such a hard line led to a change in North Korea’s attitude. The opposition parties insisted that the South Korean government create a mood for dialog, saying that North Korea’s threats may expand into full-scale war. But eventually, President Park made North Korea propose dialog first.
The two Koreas exchanged wide-ranging opinions not only about breakthroughs in the recent tensions but also about measures for the development of South and North Korean relations in these high-level talks first proposed by North Korea. It is construed that both sides began to prepare solutions in non-military sectors such as economic cooperation, public welfare, the environment, and culture to say nothing of easing tensions in the military and security sectors.
It is highly likely that they discussed lifting the May 24 sanctions, the resumption of South Koreans’ tours to Geumgang Mountain in North Korea, family reunions between the two Koreas, and the creation of a world-class ecological park for peace in the DMZ.
North Korea is expected to become more active, since even its economic exchanges with China are limited at a time when the international community is raising the level of its sanctions against North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and military provocations. The South Korean government is now able to expedite inter-Korean family reunions and the creation of an ecological park for peace in the DMZ. North Korea’s forward-looking changes in its attitude may lead South Korea to grant a bigger economic cooperation deal to their northern cousins.