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Our democracy stronger than missiles: Moon

Last two presidents didn’t attend annual sports gathering
Oct 23,2017
President Moon Jae-in said that “our democracy is a hundred times, a thousand times more powerful than North Korea’s missiles” while attending a sports festival for people with hometowns in North Korea. The sports festival was held in Seoul Sunday.

“Our democracy - which North Korea lacks - is the basis of our food, way of life and peace,” said Moon in an address at the 35th annual athletic meet organized by the Committee for the Five Northern Korean Provinces attended by displaced persons and defectors from the North.

Speaking at the Hyochang Stadium in Yongsan District, central Seoul, Moon emphasized that reunions of families separated in the 1950-53 Korean War is a humanitarian issue that needs be addressed without political considerations, while calling for continued sanctions and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang.

The committee, an administrative body set up by the South Korean government, defines the five northern Korean provinces as Hwanghae, North and South Pyongan, and North and South Hamgyong.

“A diplomatic solution on North Korea, including strong sanctions, will open a path for peace and coexistence between the two Koreas,” said Moon. “We will unfold a step-by-step, comprehensive approach, based upon an unwavering and strong security posture, which will enable North Korea to realize that its reckless provocations will only bring about its destruction and draw it back to dialogue on denuclearization.”

Moon referred to his Berlin address on July 6, in which he proposed reunions of war-torn families and visits to ancestral graves. He said that if North Korea was not ready to do so, South Korea will be open to North Koreans to visit their hometowns and ancestral graves in the South.

“Before these separated family members leave our side, we must no longer go against family relations and humanity,” he continued. “The ardent wishes of the families to verify if their relatives are alive, exchange letters, hold reunions and visit their hometowns will be addressed separate from the political and military situation.”

There are some 60,000 people in South Korea separated from family members in the North, and their average age is 81, the president noted.

This marks the first time a president has attended the athletic meet in 16 years since former President Kim Dae-jung attended in 2001.

The late President Kim attended the sports festival for three consecutive years. “I, too, am the son of a displaced person,” said Moon, pointing out that he is a second-generation North Korean, as his late father was from Hungnam in South Hamgyong Province. “After fleeing to the South during the war, from Hungnam Harbor to Geoje Island then Busan, he led a rootless life and was not able to set foot in his homeland before passing away.”

Moon added that his elderly mother, now 90, is from Hamju County, also in South Hamgyong, and that she “wishes that there will be a time when she can travel freely back and forth between North and South Korea and find her roots in her parent’s hometown.”

The president’s parents were evacuated on the SS Meredith Victory from Hungnam port in North Korea in December 1950 during the Korean War, and Moon was born two years later on Geoje Island in South Gyeongsang in January 1953.

Moon told the crowd, “Democracy is what drew my parents, those of you with hometowns in North Korea here today and defectors to the Republic of Korea.” He said he would aid defectors from North Korea, “who chose the path to freedom and peace,” to become financially independent, adding, “This is the path to enabling a more stable foothold for more peace and reunification on the Korean Peninsula.”

Moon originally planned to send a video message but decided to attend in person, according to a Blue House official. He also attended the sports meet in 2012 when he was a presidential candidate.

[kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]