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North Korea: Witness to Transformation

Chung-in Moon on the NLL

by | November 23rd, 2012 | 07:00 am

We have been following the flap over the NLL in South Korean politics. Prof. Moon Chung-in, at Yonsei University, attended the 2007 summit with President Roh and was deeply involved in crafting the proposal for a joint fishing zone as a confidence-building measure. He sent us a long email, and a link to his interview in Ohmynews  and to a recent piece in Sisa In and it was too informative not to pass on:

“As you argued, I pointed out that NLL is not a territorial line, a maritime boundary line nor a maritime de-militarized line. Henry Kissinger used the term “Northern Patrol Limit Line.”  But its official term should be “Maritime Non-Aggression Boundary Line” as stipulated in the 1992 Basic Agreement. I also discovered that neither the operational order given by General Clark on August 30, 1953 nor the ROK’s naval operational order 1235 that was based on Clark’s order appear to exist in document form.  They were apparently discarded. I therefore relied on the CIA report (January 1974), Kissinger telegram (Feb. 1975), and another State Dept. document [SH: see our post on these documents, collected by Terence Roehrig.]

Most importantly, the Enforcement Ordinance of Law on Territorial Water (영해법 시행령), which became effective as of September 20, 1978 under Park Chung-hee, did not identify the disputed West Sea as part of ROK territorial waters.  In fact, it did not mention the West Sea at all, perhaps due to US pressure.

In my recollection of the summit, Kim Man-bok (ROK intelligence head) and Kim Yang-gon (head of the Department of United Front, Korea Workers’ Party, his counterpart for the North) negotiated over the issue of a common fishery zone until 3 o’clock in the morning of October 4, but failed to reach an agreement. The South proposed to draw equidistant lines on both sides of the NLL to create a common fishery zone, but the North rejected it by arguing that the southern part of the NLL was in its territorial waters Thus, the Oct. 4th Joint Summit Declaration did not mention the NLL at all [SH: see item 5 of the declaration, reproduced below].  However, both North and South agreed to resume the negotiations on the common fishery zone in the North-South defense ministers’ talk scheduled for November 27-29.

At that time, South Korea’s defense minister, Kim Jang-soo was given the following instructions by the Blue House. First, Kim was instructed to make the same proposal of an equidistant divide of the NLL. Second, if the North did not accept, he was instructed to make an alternative proposal of an equal-area divide along different sections of the NLL in order to forestall security concerns on both sides. If the North accepted the equidistant line proposal, the common fishery zone would make a deeper inroad toward the North’s coastline, especially at the eastern part of the NLL near Yeonpyong island. It was very unlikely that the North would have accepted the proposal. Thus, the Blue House instructed Kim Jang-soo to make another proposal under which the South would make a concession of more area in the eastern part of the NLL near Yeonpyong, while the North would in return make a concession of equal area in the western part of the NLL near Baekryong island where the Northern coastline is rather far away. But Defense Minister Kim derailed the negotiation with the North when his northern counterpart rejected the first proposal.  Thus, what President Roh had in mind was to make the NLL a de facto boundary line by making the adjustments: the equidistant line and equal-area proposals.  It is thus completely unfair for the Saenuri Party to accuse Roh of abandoning the NLL.

Won Se-hun, head of National Intelligence Service, made it clear that his agency has the verbatim transcript of the dialogue between Roh and Kim Jong-il, but cannot reveal its contents because of national security interests.  It seems very strange that the ruling Saenuri is demanding the opening of the record against the opinion of its own intelligence chief.  Such behavior can only be interpreted as a gimmick for the election campaign. Furthermore, Park Geun-hye has been proposing confidence-building measures with the North as a way of normalizing ties. The behavior of her party seems to contradict her own election pledge [SH: see her recent speech.]

President Roh had three agendas in mind in proposing the West Sea Peace and Cooperation Special Zone [again, see item 5 of the joint declaration below]: a common fishery zone; a common peace zone; and the creation of a special economic zone in Haeju port. The first was to transform the conflictual West Sea into the sea of peace through such economic measures as a common fishing zone.  The second was to prevent the loss of young lives of North and South Korea by avoiding military conflicts in the NLL.  The third was to make the NLL a de facto non-aggression boundary line by proposing both equidistant and equal area divide of the NLL. The current debate on the NLL in South Korea seems to be overly politicized, which can severely undermine prospects for inter-Korean rapprochement. Whoever gets elected as leader of South Korea, he or she must resume negotiations with the North on how to resolve military tensions over the NLL so that more young lives will not be sacrificed, not to mention the economic costs. The Faustian bargain should be avoided by ending the current futile politicization of the NLL issue.”


Declaration on the Advancement of South-North Korean Relations,

Peace and Prosperity

October 4, 2007



5.  The South and the North have agreed to facilitate, expand, and further develop inter-Korean economic cooperation projects on a continual basis for balanced economic development and co-prosperity on the Korean Peninsula in accordance with the principles of common interests, co-prosperity and mutual aid.


The South and the North reached an agreement on promoting economic cooperation, including investments, pushing forward with the building of infrastructure and the development of natural resources. Given the special nature of inter-Korean cooperative projects, the South and the North have agreed to grant preferential conditions and benefits to those projects.


The South and the North have agreed to create a “special peace and cooperation zone in the West Sea” encompassing Haeju and vicinity in a bid to proactively push ahead with the creation of a joint fishing zone and maritime peace zone, establishment of a special economic zone, utilization of Haeju harbor, passage of civilian vessels via direct routes in Haeju and the joint use of the Han River estuary.


The South and the North have agreed to complete the first-phase construction of the Gaeseong Industrial Complex at an early date and embark on the second-stage development project. The South and the North have agreed to open freight rail services between Munsan and Bongdong and promptly complete various institutional measures, including those related to passage, communication, and customs clearance procedures.


The South and the North have agreed to discuss repairs of the Gaeseong-Sinuiju railroad and the Gaeseong-Pyongyang expressway for their joint use.


The South and the North have agreed to establish cooperative complexes for shipbuilding in Anbyeon and Nampo, while continuing cooperative projects in various areas such as agriculture, health and medical services and environmental protection.


The South and the North have agreed to upgrade the status of the existing Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation Promotion Committee to a Joint Committee for Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation to be headed by deputy prime minister-level officials.