The Significance of the 6.15 Declaration

By Dae Han Song

The morning of June 13, 2000 – with millions of Koreans watching on their televisions – marked a watershed moment in inter-Korean relations. What previous attempts to thaw inter-Korean relations had failed to do was instantly achieved, albeit momentarily, with the embrace between President Kim Dae Jung – the first South Korean to come to North Korea – and National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong Il: a cathartic moment between two leaders and two peoples of a nation divided by war and years of anti-North and anti-South recrimination and political education.

North SouthSouth Korea’s President Kim Dae Jung and
North Korea’s National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong Il
embrace in Pyongyang Airport on June 13, 2013.

The June 15 Declaration, which lays the framework for reunification, was the consolidation of this three day summit. Reunification was to be achieved by Korean people themselves free from foreign intervention and through a gradual reunification process involving projects fostering cooperation and reconciliation, in short, reunification through cooperation, reconciliation, and self-determination. Seven years later, under President Roh Moo Hyun, the October 4 Declaration more concretely articulated the terms of the June 15 declaration.

studentsUniversity students march in the 2013 commemoration of the May 18th Uprising,
holding banners that read “Amongst Our Own Peoples” referring to reunifictaion

Now, 13 years later, many barriers still remain before the realization of the 6.15 and 10.4 declarations: a Korean Peninsula, that 60 years later, still remains at war plagued with tensions and skirmishes; and foreign powers that still seek to exploit its geopolitical location for their interests. The calls for the realization of the 6.15 declarations do not ignore or sidestep such realities, rather, they are defiant rallying calls to finally bring down those barriers so that a divided people can be unified and be free to choose their own path.

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