15 June 2005

June 15, 2005

Congratulations as the two Koreas mark the fifth anniversary of the inter-Korean summit. Much has changed over the past five and even 10+ years since Kim Jong Il has taken the helm in north Korea. It remains to be seen if “fat bear” Kim Jong Nam will follow in his father’s footsteps, and whether the United States will get its wish and see the GNP return to power in the South. But at the moment, I am not going to pontificate on such issues. I will only note my surprise upon returning to Korea in August of 2000 (after having last been there in 1996 when the last of the major submarine infiltration incidents took place in September, and a North Korean Captain Lee Chul Su flew a MiG-19 across the border in the first pilot defection since 1983) when, on the reviewing stand for the Liberation Day events to see large cutouts of both the South Korean national flower and the Kimjingalia side by side. The change in just four years since Kim Dae Jung’s election was astounding.

Yonhap runs a daily feature “Today in Korean History,” which lists several events for June 15 in addition to the 2000 inter-Korean summit. Among them:
  • 918 – Wang Geun unifies the three Kingdoms (Silla, Late-Paekjae and Late-Koguryo) to establish the Koryo Kingdom (of course Yonhap uses the newer government transliteration system, as opposed to my use of one of the older methods that is still more comfortable for me, aside from simply using Korean, which is of course more accurate. There has been an interesting discussion on Romanization on the Korea Studies web recently).
  • 1994 (Yonhap has it incorrectly as 1984) – Jimmy Carter visits North Korea to discuss the nuclear issue.
  • 1999 – A brief inter-Korean naval clash in the west sea leaves at least one North Korean ship on the bottom of the sea (Yonhap forgets to mention the sinking. North Korea got revenge three years later in June 2002, showing a marked improvement in its own naval capabilities).
  • 2000 – South Korean President Kim Dae Jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il hold their historic summit meeting in Pyongyang.
  • 2004 – (The fifth anniversary of the 1999 naval clash) North and South Korean warships exchange a brief radio message in order to reduce tensions and lower chances of hostilities in the West Sea.

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