On August 15, Moon Jae-in, the South Korean President, spoke at the ceremony marking the 73rd anniversary of the Liberation of Korea from Japanese colonial rule. He declared that the liberation process will only be truly complete when North and South Korea have overcome the split, established a secure peace and created a single economic community. He pointed out that the European Union was also, at first, a purely economic community, and proposed the creation of an East Asian Railroad Community, which would include both Koreas, four other Asian countries, and the USA. This community will become a foundation for the future prosperity of North East Asia and serve as a foundation for a multilateral security system in the region.
The US Department of State’s comment on the South Korean president’s speech was brief: Washington and Seoul are working together as part of their combined reaction to the actions of Pyongyang, and the USA is following a policy of imposing sanctions on North Korea and insists that it first completely discontinue its nuclear weapons program. In this context, South Korean media have noted that Washington intends to block any moves South Korea might take to establish a closer cooperation with North Korea without reference to US policy. The American newspaper the New York Times has also expressed concern about Moon Jae-in’s speech: if the negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang are successful, then relations between the two Koreas will no longer be a problem. However, it looks as if the South Korean government would prefer to take action immediately.
Which is logical enough. Washington is restraining Seoul, a tendency that is evident in a number of different areas. The most obvious is the question of opening a liaison office in the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the DPRK. As readers will remember, the two parties reached agreement on this point during the summit between North and South Korea on April 27, and the liaison office should have been opened by the end of August. In July South Korea budgeted 86 million won (77 000 dollars) for the renovation of the premises for the office, and later approved a further grant of 3.5 billion won (3 100 000 dollars) from the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund. It is thought that 20-30 South Koreans will work in the office.