President Moon Jae-in on Monday called for swift efforts to have the outcome of his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ratified by the parliament, a move apparently aimed at ensuring the implementation of the inter-Korean agreement despite a possible change in government down the road.
"I ask you to quickly start taking steps to have the declaration ratified as required under the law on the development of South-North Korea relations," Moon said while meeting with his aides in a weekly meeting held at his office Cheong Wa Dae.
It marked the first time for the president or his government to note the need to have the latest inter-Korean agreement ratified by the National Assembly.
However, the issue has already become a source of contention between the rival parties with the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) vowing to block a bill on the ratification of the so-called Panmunjom Declaration at all cost.
The joint declaration was issued Friday when the leaders of the divided Koreas met in the border truce village of Panmunjom inside the heavily-fortified Demilitarized Zone.
In their joint declaration, the leaders declared there will never be another war on the Korean Peninsula, while agreeing to halt all their provocations and hostile acts against each other and reaffirming their commitment to complete denuclearization of the peninsula.
The LKP has called it a fake show, staged to help the government and its ruling party in the upcoming mayoral and gubernatorial elections slated for June 13.
Moon insisted that having the declaration ratified by the parliament is a required, legal process, not a political event.
"Still, it would not be desirable should the parliament's agreement become another source of political dispute," he said.
The move to have the inter-Korean agreement ratified is apparently driven by the collapse of those reached at two previous inter-Korean summits, which were held in 2000 and 2007 under the former liberal administrations of late presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun.
The former presidents' immediate successor Lee Myung-bak shut down the tourism program to North Korea's Mount Kumgang after a South Korean tourist was killed there upon entering a restricted area. The following administration under the ousted former President Park Geun-hye shut down the joint industrial complex in Kaesong amid North Korea's military provocations.
Mount Kumgang and Kaesong, both once monuments of inter-Korean reconciliation and summits, remain closed.
Moon said the agreement reached at the latest inter-Korean summit will mark a new chapter in world history.
"The Panmunjom Declaration is a declaration of peace that told the entire world there will no longer be any war or nuclear threats on the Korean Peninsula. I am confident a new era of peace will open on the Korean Peninsula," he told the meeting according to Cheong Wa Dae pool reports.
Still, the declaration requires all-out efforts to implement it for it to work, the president noted.
"We have only taken the very first step. I ask you to take all necessary follow-up measures," he was quoted as saying.
To this end, the special summit preparation commission, currently headed by Cheong Wa Dae chief of staff Im Jong-seok, will be turned into a special committee on the implementation of the summit declaration, while the government will do its utmost to help ensure the success of the upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit, the president said.
U.S. President Donald Trump earlier agreed to meet Kim after a successful South-North Korea summit. After Friday's summit, Trump said his meeting with Kim may take place in three or four weeks.
"There may be items that can be started right away and some that might have to wait until conditions are met. I ask you to carefully identify those that can be started right away and quickly implement them, and for those that require necessary conditions, first begin preliminary studies and researches," he told the meeting.
A Cheong Wa Dae official later explained that the preliminary study will include a joint study with Pyongyang of possible economic cooperation projects with North Korea, which are currently subject to international sanctions against the North.
Offering a detailed glimpse of his meeting with Kim, the South Korean president told his aides that the North Korean leader was the first to inquire about the new hotline established between the offices of the two leaders.
Kim asked if Moon would actually pick up the phone whenever he called, the Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters, while asking not to be identified.
Moon was quoted as saying no, telling Kim that he would first need to give a prior notice so he can stand ready by the phone.