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Moon’s plan to remember March 1 with North flops

Feb 14,2019
For months, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has pushed to jointly commemorate the 100th anniversary of the March 1 Independence Movement this year with North Korea.

He thought he got his wish last September when, at his third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, he and Kim signed a declaration that said both countries would celebrate the symbolic day together and hold working-level meetings toward that end.

But with only two weeks left on the calendar, South Korea has given up - because the North isn’t responding to calls to start those discussions. The first time Seoul officially asked Pyongyang to start preparing for March 1 was early last December: The North still hasn’t answered.

A high-level official at the Blue House who spoke with the JoongAng Ilbo Tuesday said it has become “realistically difficult” for the two Koreas to hold a joint event marking the independence movement now a second U.S.-North summit is just around the corner, implying Pyongyang would be occupied preparing for Kim’s next summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

According to a second Blue House source, Moon was so enthusiastic about a joint event that he personally relayed the idea to Kim last April when they met at the Panmunjom truce village for their first summit. Kim, at the time, reacted positively, saying March 1 was celebrated in the North as well.

But some local critics think Pyongyang shunned Seoul because while the South sees the March 1 Independence Movement as the catalyst for Korea’s independence from Japanese colonial rule, the North highlights its founder Kim Il Sung’s anti-Japanese activities instead.

As Pyongyang was ignoring Seoul’s call to get ready for March 1, the South Korean government was preparing for a joint event anyway.

This year, both countries will probably celebrate March 1 together only through private institutions, the second Blue House official said, adding that other joint events are expected to be held throughout the year.

BY KANG TAE-HWA [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]