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What agenda?

Apr 25,2018
With only two days left before a historic inter-Korean summit in Panmunjom, the agenda for the meeting between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has not been fixed yet. That’s a very strange situation. We are also embarrassed to see a scheduled meeting between both sides’ high level officials being delayed for unknown reasons.

In a high-level meeting on March 29, representatives of South and North Korea agreed to meet again around April 18 to discuss and determine agenda items for the summit. But North Korea has been dragging its feet for some reason. That’s not all. The Moon administration’s plan to allow both leaders to talk on the phone through a hotline installed last Friday seems to have been dropped. Such surprises ring alarm bells over the fate of the summit.

Nevertheless, the Moon administration is engrossed in promoting the third inter-Korean summit. Seoul struck a deal with Pyongyang to allow South Korean journalists to enter the northern section of Panmunjom so that they can cover the very moment the North Korean leader crosses the Demarcation Line to the southern side more vividly. The government also plans to set up several cameras there to relay historic scenes from different angles. The country’s three major television networks are fully ready to broadcast all the moments past midnight.

Delivering momentous happenings to the people is necessary. But more important is the success of the summit. There are many concerns that a schism between the Moon administration and the Trump administration will be widened after the inter-Korean summit. White House National Security Advisor John Bolton reportedly warned his counterpart Chung Eui-yong — head of National Security Office at the Blue House — not to go too far in the inter-Korean summit when he met Chung at the White House two weeks ago.

A summit is a venue where two heads of state face each other and reach agreement on a pre-arranged agenda. This summit may proceed without such a blueprint.

We cannot rule out the possibility of the two leaders striking a deal that their subordinates can not accommodate. The Moon administration must make efforts to draw up concrete and detailed negotiating strategies for the success of the summit rather than being bent on merely promoting the event. If the summit falls short of public expectations, it must take responsibility. The government must know the old saying: empty vessels make the most noise.

JoongAng Ilbo, Apr. 25, Page 30