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Pyongyang may have rejected NLL in pact

Oct 26,2018
Pyongyang’s version of a military pact signed by both Koreas last month mentions the northern limit line (NLL) in angle quotes, which may mean it doesn’t acknowledge the maritime border between the two Koreas in the Yellow Sea.

Seoul’s version doesn’t place any punctuation marks around the same words.

A lawmaker from the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) exclusively revealed the North’s version of the agreement to the JoongAng Ilbo on Thursday. Former South Korean National Defense Minister Song Young-moo signed the military pact with his North Korean counterpart, No Kwang-chol, on Sept. 19 during the third inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang.

If the North had indeed refused to acknowledge the NLL in September, it would contradict remarks made by South Korean President Moon Jae-in earlier this month.

The Blue House chief said on Oct. 11 that the North acknowledged the NLL in the latest summit. Both Koreas agreed to create a so-called peace zone around the area to prevent possible military clashes and establish a joint fishing zone, he said.

The NLL has long been a thorny issue between the two Koreas. Pyongyang argues that it was unilaterally drawn by the U.S.-led United Nations Command after the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

The North has claimed that the line should be redrawn further south and presented its version of an inter-Korean maritime border in December 2007 during a South-North military meeting between generals.

According to the North’s version of the agreement, shown by Rep. Chong Jong-sup of the LKP, Pyongyang placed guillemets around the NLL on Article 3 of the military pact, which states that both Koreas agreed to establish military measures to turn the areas around the NLL a peace zone. In the North’s pact, the NLL was written as 〈〈Northern Limit Line〉〉.

After Song and No signed their respective versions of the military agreement, they exchanged them with each other, which means the South Korean government currently possesses the North Korean version.

“It’s hard to think that North Korea acknowledged the NLL,” said Chong, “because it placed punctuation marks around the words.”

Chong, who serves as a member on the parliamentary National Defense Committee, urged the Blue House not to exploit the maritime border as a “tool to score points on improving South-North relations.”

According to the Joint Board of South and North Korea for the Compilation of Gyeoremal-keunsajeon, an organization that compiles joint dictionaries with North Korean linguists, the North Korean language uses guillemets when the writer intends to express something negative, place emphasis or quote someone.

North Korean media often uses the marks either when referring to something it deems as extremely negative, such as the LKP or the May 24 sanctions on the North, or to highlight something positive, such as the titles of propaganda work glorifying the country’s leadership.

BY LEE KEUN-PYUNG, LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]