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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Sept. 14)

All Headlines 06:58 September 14, 2018

Before ratification
: Gray areas in Panmunjeom Declaration need to be cleared

The National Assembly is sharply divided over the government's push for it to ratify the Panmunjeom Declaration signed by President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during their first summit on April 27 at the truce village of Panmunjeom.

On Tuesday, the government submitted a proposal for deliberation by the National Assembly's Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee. The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) and other opposition parties argue that it is not possible to proceed with the ratification because the government has not provided enough explanation about the details of inter-Korean projects.

In the motion submitted to the Assembly, the government estimated it would cost 298.6 billion won ($264.8 million) next year to implement some of the inter-Korean economic projects, including refurbishing railways and roads in North Korea. The opposition suspects the figure is only a fraction of what is likely to be an astronomical amount that will actually be needed to implement the inter-Korean projects.

The LKP and other opposition parties say they cannot approve the declaration if the government does not submit a proper estimate of the necessary costs. "If the Ministry of Unification is intentionally hiding the estimated costs, it will face grave punishment," LKP floor leader Rep. Kim Sung-tae said.

It is not just the opposition parties, but many people are also baffled by why the government is in such a hurry to pursue inter-Korean economic projects when there has not been significant progress in North Korea's denuclearization. Many do not think it is timely to invest so heavily in the North as it is not certain how much South Korea can actually benefit from it as well.

Besides the money issue, there are also some other gray areas in the declaration that are also escalating the people's discontent. Recently, a controversy broke out over the English translation of the Panmunjeom Declaration.

Some news reports have been taking issue with the discrepancy between the version that was released right after the summit and the version that was sent to the U.N. last week for circulation at the upcoming session of the U.N. General Assembly. While the earlier version says the two Koreas will "actively pursue" a declaration to end the 1950-53 Korean War this year, the one submitted to the U.N. says the two sides "agreed to declare an end to the war this year."

The government needs to clear up some of these gray areas regarding the content of the declaration before pressing the Assembly for ratification. Also, the government should also seek to convince the people that economic cooperation with North Korea is really worth it.

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