“North Korea is not a state,” said Kim Ui-gyeom, the spokesperson of the presidential office of South Korea, in regard with the ratification of Pyongyang Joint Declaration before changing his stance overnight that “There exist many diverse aspects in how we should define North Korea.” Kim’s controversial remarks came up when he rebutted the Liberty Korea Party’s criticism that President Moon Jae-in’s decision to ratify the declaration in question without consent of the National Assembly is in violation of the constitution.
“Our constitution or the National Security Law does not recognize inter-Korean relations as a relationship between two countries,” said the spokesperson in a briefing on Thursday. “By contrast, North Korea is recognized as a state by the United Nations and under international law.” Kim said he had only intended to propose a constitutional interpretation of the president’s decision as the Liberty Korea Party claimed that the ratification was unconstitutional, adding that in the process, the constitutional status of North Korea was highlighted as a topic of debate among other points he pursued making.
Kim’s remarks caused much controversy not only from the opposition parties but within the ruling party. “We understand his intention was to rebut the opposition party, but as a spokesperson of the presidential office, he did not have to deny North Korea’s status of a state,” said a lawmaker from the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, adding, “All he had to so was to clarify the point that the act of ratification was not in violation of the constitution.” “The remarks came from the spokesperson, but their legal logic was provided by Cho Guk, the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs,” said an official from the presidential office. “It is regrettable that the specificity of inter-Korean relations or the judgment of state affairs was not taken into account.”
Concern is being raised from the ruling party that Kim’s remarks made it even more difficult for the Panmunjom Declaration to receive agreement for ratification from policymakers. “It is important that the lawmakers pursue a more productive discussion so that our relations with the North can head towards reconciliation, peace, and prosperity,” said the spokesperson in an apparent effort to make out his case. “And the productive discussion can only start when the lawmakers discuss and handle the ratification bill proposed by the government more seriously.”
It is reported that the presidential office will keep their comments about the status of North Korea to a minimum as continued controversies could have a negative impact on the series of inter-Korean exchanges scheduled ahead such as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s visit to Seoul. “Next year, Gwangju is hosting the world aquatics championships, and we are trying to induce participation from North Korea,” Rep. Kim Young-woo of the Liberty Korea Party said during a government inspection in the city of Gwangju on Thursday. “Will North Korea be participating as a country? If not, what is their capacity?”
The opposition party’s bashing still on despite the presidential office’s effort to contain the mess. Yoon Young-seok, the chief spokesperson of the Liberty Korea Party, weighed in, saying, “The president and his administration, who are obligated to abide by the constitution, have neutralized the constitution and ratified the declaration arbitrarily without offering a proper explanation to people or policymakers.”
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