Korea deal tests Kim Jong-il’s commitment

South Korean media questioned on Friday whether the two Koreas’ summit pledge to seek a formal end to their 1950 to 1953 war could be realised given Pyongyang’s record of broken promises.

The ambition was spelled out by South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in a joint statement signed in Pyongyang on Thursday at the end of a three-day summit.

”If it gets implemented properly, the declaration carries points that would decisively take down the wall of distrust and confrontation over the 60 years of division,” the mainstream JoongAng Ilbo newspaper said in an editorial.

The joint statement also spells out plans for expanding tourism, meetings for families separated by the border across the Korean peninsula and for setting up the first regular train service since the Korean War.

It also called for new investment by the South to develop a port in the impoverished North and joint fishing grounds in disputed waters.

”The problem is how much of it can be implemented,” the JoongAng Ilbo said.

Opinion polls showed the summit boosted the approval rating for the unpopular Roh, who has five months left in office.

He has been accused by conservative politicians of using the summit to help the fortunes of his liberal allies, who are trailing badly in polls ahead of a December presidential election.

The conservative Dong-A Ilbo recalled that the government of former president Kim Dae-jung declared ”War is over” at the end of the Koreas first summit in 2000 only to fight a deadly naval battle two years later with the communist North that killed scores of sailors on both sides.

”An agreement that does not get implemented only deepens distrust,” the daily said in an editorial.

Kim Jong-il has already broken a promise he made in 2000 to pay a return visit to the South, the newspapers said.

Roh said on Thursday he had again invited Kim to visit the South but the reclusive North Korean leader turned down the offer.

North Korea has cancelled or suspended many projects with the South over the years, postponed visits of families separated by the Korean War, stormed out of inter-Korean meeting sessions and held off on agreed actions until receiving payments.

Another conservative daily, the Chosun Ilbo, said it was impossible to establish peace when North Korea still maintains nuclear weapons.

Regional powers said this week that North Korea had agreed to disable its Soviet-era reactor and plants that make weapons-grade plutonium in exchange for energy aid and the prospect of ending its status as an international pariah.

”Establishing a peace regime as laid out in the statement only comes across as empty words,” the newspaper said.

Family members of South Koreans kidnapped by the North and prisoners from the Korean War still held in the North said the summit agreement was a slap in the face because the leaders did not touch on the return of their loved ones.

”There is absolutely no improvement in our situation,” the head of the Abductees’ Family Union, Choi Sung-yong, was quoted as saying in the JoongAng Daily. – Reuters

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