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Historic 2000 Inter-Korean Summit: A Look Back

On this day, 24 years ago, the leaders of North and South Korea convened for the first time in an effort to establish a relationship during the 2000 Inter-Korean Summit. Although it is hard to believe now, there was a time not too long ago when friendly relations between the two Koreas were not only possible, but reunification was even on the table. It all started with this meeting almost two and a half decades ago when South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung met North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and agreed to an official summit.

2000 Inter-Korean Summit

The 2000 Inter-Korean Summit was a landmark event in the history of the Korean Peninsula, marking the first-ever meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea since the division of Korea in 1945. This event took place from June 13 to 15, 2000, in Pyongyang, North Korea.

The summit was attended by high-ranking officials from both countries, including South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. This was considered the first major step towards 2000 Inter-Korean Summit reconciliation and peace, marking a high point in cooperation between these two countries.

The result of the meeting was the creation of South Korea’s “Sunshine Policy,” which aimed at engaging North Korea through dialogue, economic cooperation, and cultural exchange. They hoped this would reduce the underlying tensions and pave the way for normalizing relations. There were even some hopes that this would lead to reunification.

Among the topics discussed were issues caused by separation such as the reunification of families separated by the Korean War, economic collaboration, and the easing of military tensions. These 2000 Inter-Korean Summit led to agreements such as the North-South Joint Declaration, which outlined key agreements for future cooperation and dialogue.

The key program was an agreement to allow separated families to meet up in reunions. this move helped heal the wounds left over by many Korean families. Additionally, tourist and economic projects allowed both sides to learn about the other’s culture and society. 

June 15th Joint Declaration

The first 2000 Inter-Korean summit meeting after the Korean War led to the announcement of the June 15 Joint Declaration on the final day of talks. This summit was a historic event, so much so that the United States Associated Press ranked it as the fifth most important news story of 2000.

Following this summit, North and South Korea continued to engage in talks, and North Korea even began negotiations to normalize relations with Japan and the United States. Although North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was expected to visit Seoul soon after, this did not happen due to changes in the international situation.

The June 15 Joint Declaration resulted in a series of North-South ministerial and military talks, held four times in Pyongyang, Seoul, and Jeju Island between July and December 2000. Additionally, North and South Korea held Red Cross talks three times and several meetings to discuss economic cooperation, continuing these efforts until March 2007. South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for successfully arranging the summit.

However, it later came to light that the South Korean government had secretly paid North Korea approximately $500 million to attend the summit. This payment caused a major political scandal known as the Cash-for-Summit scandal when it was revealed three years later. Six South Korean businessmen and officials were convicted due to this issue.

Despite this, the summit allowed some families, separated for over 50 years, to reunite in Pyongyang and Seoul in August 2000. Subsequent 2000 Inter-Korean Summit talks were held, solidifying the June 15 North-South Joint Declaration as a milestone in the history of Korean Peninsula relations.

This summit was met with international acclaim as many leaders applauded the efforts made by both sides. President Kim Dae-jung would even with a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in advancing peace and reconciliation with North Korea. Although it might seem like a distant memory now, the 2000 Inter-Korean Summit remains a reminder that cooperation between the Koreas is not only possible, it has happened in the past.

“The South Korean entourage got off the plane and lined up. Suddenly, there was cheering from the welcoming crowd. I saw Kim Jong-il standing over there … When the two leaders finally shook hands with each other, I was moved to tears,”

-Park Jie-won, South’Korean special envoy for the inter-Korean summit
2000 inter-korean summit

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