05 October 2007

Summit Wrap: Mushrooms, Movies and Money

The second inter-Korean summit is over, the two leaders have parted, Kim Jong Il to his DVD player with a load of new movies and Korean dramas, Roh Moo Hyun to his kitchen for a few (tons of) mushrooms.

In addition to the gifts, the banquets, the speeches and the photo ops, the two leaders also signed the "Declaration on the Advancement of South-North Korean Relations, Peace and Prosperity" as South Korea's Yonhap translates it, or the "Declaration for Development of North-South Relations and Peace and Prosperity" as North Korea's KCNA writes it.

There are minor differences between the English translations of the two texts. Some are just standard adjustments in phrasing, and the difference in order of South and North or North and South. In the South Korean version, when they refer to doing things for all of Korea, they say "the Korean people" whereas the North Koreans use "the nation," a reflection of the south Korean sensitivities and the North Korean emphasis on the artificialness of separation. This sense is repeated in the section on Kaesong, where South Korea talks about "the special nature of inter-Korean cooperative projects" and North Korea phrases it "the peculiarities of cooperation undertakings between compatriots."

Perhaps the most striking instance of translation differences of this nature comes in the first point, where the South says "The South and the North have agreed to resolve the issue of unification on their own initiative and according to the spirit of 'by-the-Korean-people-themselves,'" and the North says "The north and the south agreed to independently solve the reunification issue in the spirit of 'By our nation itself', put the dignity and interests of the nation above all and orientate everything to this objective."

One other difference comes in the final section, where the two discuss future inter-Korean summits. The South side document is much more committed to the idea, saying "their highest authorities will meet frequently" while the North side is less committal, stating "the top leaders of both sides meet from time to time."

Differences aside, the document actually came out with a series of concrete goals, perhaps most noticeable being the agreements on road and rail transportation and maritime and port cooperation. North Korean premier Kim Yong Il was chosen for his post in part due to his work on the Ryongnam Ship Repair Factory near the port of Nampo, at the mouth of the Taedong River. His appointment, and the removal of Pak Pong Ju, was a shift in North Korea’s economic focus, and opened the way for the agreements on expanded economic zones, joint ship building facilities, and development of Haeju, long cut off from significant use due to the location of the NLL.

If Haeju, Nampo and Anbyon take off, this could prove a profitable place for joint economic ventures, as they have ready port access rather than the landlocked Kaesong or the isolated RaSon zone.

So maybe the two got more than mushrooms and movies. Maybe they will get some cash.

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