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Blue House defends ratification

Oct 25,2018
The Blue House on Wednesday rebuked the opposition’s argument that an inter-Korean military agreement signed last month in Pyongyang was subject to parliamentary approval, saying it was not a treaty with another state, drawing its logic from the Constitution.

The presidential office’s rebuttal came after the major opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) pointed out that the South-North military agreement signed as an annex to the Pyongyang Declaration last month should be examined by the National Assembly for approval because it involves national security as a treaty with North Korea.

“Article 60 of the Constitution stipulates in what circumstances a treaty requires parliamentary approval. And by definition, a treaty is between states,” said Kim Eui-kyeom, Blue House spokesman, at a regular press briefing Wednesday.

“Under our Constitution and legal system, North Korea is not defined as a state. Therefore, an agreement or consent signed with North Korea is not a treaty.”

The Constitution, which was last amended in 1987, stipulates the “National Assembly shall have the right to consent to the conclusion and ratification of treaties pertaining to mutual assistance or mutual security” and those “pertaining to any restriction in sovereignty” that carry a “burden to the state or people with an important financial obligation.”

On North Korea, the Constitution stipulates: “The territory of the Republic of Korea shall consist of the Korean peninsula and its adjacent islands.”

On the opposition’s warning that they would bring the case to the Constitutional Court, the official stressed the whole idea of doing so could be “unconstitutional” because doing so would imply North Korea is a foreign state.

The presidential office also draws its logic from Article 3 of the Development of the Inter-Korean Relations Act, which stipulates: “Inter-Korean relations are not relations between nations, but special relations established temporarily in the course of pursuing unification.”

The spokesman went on to cite the third clause of Article 4 of the act, which defines the term South-North agreement as “all agreements concluded in the form of documents between the two Koreas,” to make the case that an inter-Korean agreement cannot be defined as a treaty.

Formally entitled “Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain,” the annex agreement specified various measures to ease tensions along the border such as withdrawing guard posts from the demilitarized zone and setting up a no-fly zone along the border.

The opposition is irate over Moon’s ratification of the Pyongyang Declaration and the annex military agreement on Tuesday, calling the move a “blatant disregard” of the National Assembly.

The LKP, which champions a hardline stance on North Korea, is particularly troubled by the inter-Korean military agreement, which will lead to suspension of military drills along the border in all domains - air, sea and land - effective Nov.1.

Kim Sung-tae, floor leader of the LKP, argued that the military pact with the North should be approved by the National Assembly in accordance with the Constitution since it involved national security.

“The South-North military agreement is tied to the first clause of Article 60 of the Constitution that stipulates matters related to a treaty on national security, and thus a constitutional matter,” he said.

“Though this is a matter that will have a direct impact on national security, Moon made a unilateral move [to ratify it], putting state affairs at risk,” he said, adding that his party would work with other opposition parties to request a court injunction as well as bring the case before the Constitutional Court.

Moon’s ratification Tuesday came as the fate of the Panmunjom Declaration, the product of his first summit with Kim in April, hangs in the balance due to the opposition’s refusal to ratify it.

The presidential office submitted the April 27 agreement to the National Assembly for approval because its implementation involves government financing for re-connection of railways and roads between the two Koreas.

The opposition is refusing to ratify it, saying the government has not provided a full cost estimate for the railway project.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]