When the delegation from the Preparatory Committee for the 2002 Joint Reunification Event arrived at Sokcho Port at 6:30 p.m. on August 7 after three days of working-level negotiations on Mt, Kumkang to announce the finalized schedule of events that both parties had agreed to, the reconciliatory mood between the two Koreas started to improve at remarkable speed.
The two parties have already agreed on holding the seventh inter-Korean ministerial-level talks, having the North Korean delegation participate in the Busan Asian Games, holding the Joint Reunification Rally in commemoration of Liberation Day in Seoul, and supporting the football match to be held on September 8. So if all these events are carried out on schedule, inter-Korean exchanges, which had stalled after the recent naval clash along the NLL in the West Sea, will return to full swing.
Furthermore, at the civilian level, the two Koreas have agreed to hold joint reunification rallies for youths and students and women on Mt. Kumkang in September. Thus, expectations are high that facilitating civic exchanges in various areas will have a positive influence on inter-Korean relations.
According to the finalized schedule announced by the working group, the August 15 National Reunification Rally will be held on August 15 and 16 in Seoul, and will comprise of the opening ceremony, a joint artistic performance, a seminar and so on.
As soon as the North Korean delegation arrives on August 14 through a direct sea route, the visitors will be taken to the Sheraton Walker Hill, where a welcoming performance and dinner awaits. On August 15, the opening ceremony of the rally will be held in the Fencing Stadium at Seoul Olympic Park at 9:30 a.m., followed by a rally to strengthen unity and a joint artistic performance.
On the same day, a joint arts and photography exhibition in commemoration of the June 15 South-North Joint Declaration will be held in the Culture Hall of the Government Procurement Agency. The exhibition will be showing off about a dozen national treasures including North Korean landscape paintings.
From 8:30 a.m. on August 16, sectional reunions will take place. According to the agreements between the two parties, there will be nine sections where groups from one country will be meeting their counterparts in the other. These groups are the workers, farmers, youths, students, women, artists, journalists and religious groups, and the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation (KCRC).
At 10:30 a.m., there will be a seminar on the theme "our people's challenge of protecting territorial rights over Dokdo and seeking justice regarding past misdeeds by Japan." After a sightseeing tour of Seoul including the Gyeongbok Palace, Changdeok Palace and Namsan Tower, the North Korean visitors will attend a farewell dinner at 8 p.m. in the Mugunghwa Hall at Sheraton Walker Hill, and take a chartered flight from Gimpo Airport to return home on August 17.
The North Korean delegation, headed by President of the KCRC Kim Young Dae, is expected to be about 100 strong. The delegation will be composed mainly of artists including famous North Korean folk singer Seok Ryun Hee.
Having finalized the schedule for the reunification events, the preparatory committee is planning to hold the second conference of representatives in the function room of Sejong Hall on August 9, during which they will review their plans for the rally. This conference will be followed by a talk to listen to the opinions of the various elders of society.
Women groups will also get busy, starting with a review of preparation plans by the Reunification Alliance*, religious groups and the women members of the KCRC at 1 p.m. on August 9. This will be followed by a meeting with representatives of the KWAU and the Korea National Council for Women to come up with detailed programs for the rally.
As of August 7, it is not known exactly how many people from women groups will be included in the North Korean delegation. The list of participants from the North will arrive only after the South Korean party sends the requisite invitations, probably before August 10.
The women groups in Korea expect that the biggest topic during the sectional gathering by women would be the fate of the inter-Korean women's reunification rally, which participants at the 2001 National Reunification Festival last year had agreed to hold. Since the women from both sides had already agreed to hold the event on Mt. Kumkang in September and to follow up on the agreement with working-level meetings, the reunion gathering in Seoul is expected to take on the form of a working-level meeting to prepare for the September rally.
*Reunification Alliance: Reunification Alliance for the Realization of the June 15 Inter-Korean Joint Declaration and Peace on the Korean Peninsula