South Korean President Roh Tae Woo said Friday that this country will allow transportation and trade from and through North Korea and will actively support economic cooperation with socialist nations to help Korean reunification.
Roh made the proposal, which offered little detail, in a speech to 120 guests at the Blue House, the presidential mansion, on the third anniversary of his June 29, 1987, proposal of political reforms.
“Now that our relations with the Soviet Union and China are being normalized, not to speak of other socialist countries, we can be reasonably confident that major changes have begun to occur on the Korean peninsula, too,” Roh said.
“The prolonged cold war on the peninsula has already started to ease. I am now confident that the 1990s will finally see peaceful reunification materialize,” he said.
The Communist north and the capitalist south, divided at the end of World War II, fought a three-year war ending in 1953 and have since been locked in confrontation.
The two have no transport, mail or other communications links.
Roh said democracy, prosperity and national unity must be the basis of peaceful reunification of the two Koreas.
“We must foster sufficient economic capabilities to ensure the well-being and prosperity of all Koreans,” Roh said.
“Toward that end, we must transcend politics to realize inter-Korean exchanges of goods, technology and capital to meet each other’s needs and further promote south-north economic cooperation,” he said. “The administration will, therefore, unrestrictedly allow the inflow from and through the north of aircraft, ships and other means of transport, as well as goods.”
Roh did not say when North Korean planes or ships could begin entering South Korean territory without restrictions.
But a government official told reporters: “It was the president’s declaration and we believe this will go into effect immediately.”
Roh said his government will also actively encourage and support economic cooperation with the Soviet Union, China and other socialist countries “because this will facilitate national unification and prosperity.”
South Korea will set up a special fund for this purpose, he said.
The South Korean president was talking with citizens from various walks of life invited to his mansion to mark the third anniversary of his announcement of democratic reforms. His remarks were broadcast live on television.
The 1987 announcement, made as presidential candidate of the ruling party and accepted by President Chun Doo Hwan, paved the way for the first direct presidential vote in 16 years, ended weeks of national anti-government demonstrations and helped him win the presidency later that year.
In July, 1988, Roh proposed exchanging goods and people between the two Koreas.
However, only selected goods have been allowed in under tight surveillance. All shipments are made through third countries.
During talks in recent years, North Korea agreed in principle to begin direct trade with the south but insisted that 43,000 U.S. troops be withdrawn from the south to create a “favorable atmosphere.”