Asia Pacific / Politics

South Korea to mark anniversary of Moon-Kim summit with event — but will the North show up?

by Jesse Johnson

Staff Writer

South Korea will hold a ceremony later this week to mark the one-year anniversary of the historic first summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

There’s just one catch: North Korea’s attendance is uncertain.

The Unification Ministry in Seoul said in a statement late Sunday that the event — called “The Long Road” — is scheduled to feature artists from South Korea, the U.S., China and Japan and will be held Saturday at the border village of Panmunjom.

The ministry said that while it plans to inform Pyongyang of the event, it currently plans to organize the show without its northern counterpart.

Moon and Kim held their first of three inter-Korean summits in April last year, helping pave the way for June’s meeting in Singapore between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump, the first-ever meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting U.S. president.

But in the wake of a second Kim-Trump summit in Vietnam at which a nuclear deal failed to materialize despite expectations, ties between the two Koreas have faltered, leaving nuclear talks deadlocked.

Any absence of North Korean participation in Saturday’s event would highlight the challenges the rival Koreas face amid the stalled U.S.-North Korean nuclear talks.

Moon has attempted to play the role of mediator in bringing the talks back on track, a move that has been roundly criticized by Kim.

In an April 12 speech Kim urged South Korea to act independently of its U.S. ally to improve relations and “come back to the original intention they had at the time of the Panmunjom summit and the September Pyongyang summit” and fully implement the declarations agreed to at them.

“They should not waver in their attitude as they see the tide nor pose as a meddlesome ‘mediator’ and ‘facilitator’ as they busy themselves with foreign trips, but be a responsible party that defends the interests of the nation speaking what they have to say squarely with the mind of their own as members of the nation,” Kim said.

The Moon administration, for its part, has played down these remarks by Kim, saying that it would continue to play a key role in denuclearization talks.

While it remains to be seen how much of a role Seoul can play going forward, Moon has said that he is seeking yet another meeting with Kim. This could come in the form of him delivering a message from Trump to the North Korean leader, CNN reported Sunday.

That report cited an anonymous source as saying that Trump’s message, which was delivered to Moon during their meeting in Washington earlier this month, includes “things that matter to the current course of action, things that have to lead to something positive for the U.S.-DPRK summit.”

DPRK is the acronym for the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“I believe (Kim) will be very, very curious about what my president (Moon) will have to say after his meeting with the Trump administration,” the apparent South Korean source said. “President Moon has been clear and simple. Small deal, big deal, good or bad, something has to happen; the process has to be sustainable.”