Reconciliatory Mood Developing Between South and North Korea
A reconciliatory mood between the two Koreas is swiftly gaining momentum as inter-Korean summit agreements are being implemented one after another.
North Korea has converted its standard time to match that of South Korea's, while the removal of propaganda loudspeakers along the border has also begun.
Preparations are also under way for the resumption of cross-border cooperation projects.
The most notable of all is the mutual elimination of border loudspeakers, seen as the first step in easing military tension. The South Korean military began the removal from Tuesday, while similar moves are detected in North Korea.
The earlier summit declaration stated that from May first, the two sides will cease all hostile acts near the Military Demarcation Line and eliminate their means including loudspeaker broadcasts and circulation of leaflets.
South Korea had already suspended loudspeaker broadcasts on March 23rd ahead of the inter-Korean summit.
Psychological warfare by way of border loudspeakers first began in 1962 by North Korea. The South followed suit the next year.
Propaganda broadcasts thereafter repeated a cycle of suspension and resumption in line with the ups and downs in inter-Korean relations.
The South had operated around 40 sets of loudspeakers, including fixed and mobile types.
Pyongyang has particularly reacted sensitively to the border broadcasts and demanded they be stopped.
Meanwhile, the Koreas have also unified their standard time. The North's Supreme People's Assembly decided to match Pyongyang Time, which is currently 30 minutes behind South Korea, to that of the South.
Announcing the news, North Korean state media said the decision follows discussions held between its leader Kim Jong-un and President Moon Jae-in. The two leaders had verbally agreed to synchronize times during summit talks on April 27.
Kim Jong-un reportedly said that since North Korea made the change to its standard time, it will now convert it back.
In an abrupt move, the North designated Pyongyang Time back on August 15th 2015, stressing "sovereign independence" and thereby creating a 30-minute difference with South Korea.
The loudspeaker removal and unified time zone are significant in and of themselves, but they are all the more meaningful in terms of implementation of the summit agreement.
These moves are expected to facilitate the easing of military tension as well as cross-border cooperation and exchanges.
However, the issue of UN sanctions on North Korea needs to be addressed.
The Seoul government says it will first carry out projects that are not subject to UN sanctions. In particular, resuming operation of the inter-Korean Gaeseong Industrial Complex is not feasible without the lifting or easing of UN and U.S. sanctions.
Therefore this will take some time, dependent on the outcome of the planned North Korea-U.S. summit talks.