UPDATE : 2019.7.19 FRI 15:18
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Summit calls for balanced South-North growth, heralds more economic cooperation

While the historic summit between leaders of the two Koreas Friday made dramatic progress towards "complete" denuclearization, it deserves further attention for its highlighting the need for balanced development and mutual prosperity on the Korean Peninsula.

By clarifying the need for both Koreas to strive for prosperity and growth, South Korea's President Moon Jae-in and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong-un, effectively laid the foundation for greater economic cooperation going forward, opening new opportunities for all sides.

The leaders met at the truce village of Panmumjom, a symbol of the 1950-53 Korean War armistice, and announced their agreement to end the war by the end of this year and build a permanent peace in the region.

Observers here pointed out that the Moon-Kim joint statement includes an article about economic cooperation between the countries even though the economy was not on the official agenda of this round of the inter-Korean talks.

The pact signed by the leaders states that "South and North Korea agreed to actively implement the projects previously agreed in the 2007 October 4 Declaration, in order to promote balanced economic growth and co-prosperity of the nation. As a first step, the two sides agreed to adopt practical steps towards the connection and modernization of the railways and roads on the eastern transportation corridor as well as between Seoul and Sinuiju for their utilization."

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (2nd from R) and his wife, Kim Jung-sook (R), make a toast with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (2nd from L) and his wife, Ri Sol-ju, during a welcome dinner at the Peace House building on the southern side of the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone on April 27, 2018. (Yonhap)

The two sides unexpectedly concurred on the need to start exploring comprehensive economic exchanges or joint projects -- although the U.S.-led economic sanctions against North Korea make this nigh impossible.

But such infrastructure-building plans may be a part of advance preparation for earnest economic cooperation some time in the future, when the North's denuclearization pledge and actual moves to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction program are implemented, leading to the lifting of crippling sanctions.

"We are not seeking to push forward economic issues (at this juncture). We just shared our views on our priorities, before watching the developments in the denuclearization process and the planned Washington-Pyongyang talks," an official from the presidential office of Chong Wa Dae said.

The official also noted that the message of "co-prosperity of the nation" could motivate the North to give up its nuclear weapons completely.

President Moon has suggested a concept of a new Korean Peninsula economic map that features a long-term plan to develop the South-North territory as a whole and in a balanced manner to the benefit of all sides.

For the balanced economic development of the Peninsula, many economists here have said that upgrading the North's backward infrastructure and facilities needs urgent attention.

"These matters need to be fundamentally addressed since any meaningful economic cooperation can only take place afterward," a researcher at a state-run think tank said.

During the talks, the North's Kim admitted that his country's transportation infrastructure is outdated and has to be improved further.

President Moon expressed hopes that a joint permanent liaison office be set up in the North's border city of Kaesong to play a key role in taking the first step toward the far-reaching plan.

In addition, there will be another chance to refurbish cross-border railways after several missteps. Such a rail network would allow goods made on the Korean Peninsula to reach Europe via Russia or China. This mode of transportation facilitates trade not only with foreign countries but between the two Koreas.

In the two previous summits in 2000 and 2007, Seoul and Pyongyang agreed to cooperate to build railways and roads connecting the two Koreas as a means to further ease tension and promote exchange between the two sides that have faced off against each other since the 1950-53 Korean War. (Yonhap)

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un raise their hands after signing a joint declaration on the southern side of the truce village of Panmunjom on April 27, 2018. (Yonhap)

Kim Sua  edt@koreapost.com

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