Daily NK conducted an interview with a resident of North Korea’s South Pyongan Province on the topic of the third inter-Korean summit, which was held in Pyongyang on September 18. The interviewee was visiting family in China at the time of the interview.
He told us that unlike the previous two inter-Korean summits held in 2000 and 2007, North Korea’s current leader has a stronger desire to improve inter-Korean relations and this has led North Koreans to be hopeful that the recent summit will significantly improve the relationship.
Here is the full interview.
Daily NK (DNK): The leaders of the two Koreas recently held a summit in Pyongyang. When did you first hear about the summit plans and what did people think?
South Pyongan Province Resident (SPPR): People heard about it through the news and lectures delivered by Party officials, and many said they hoped the inter-Korean relationship would improve so the two Koreas can be one again. We have continued to believe from the second summit that [unification] will occur if the US doesn’t get involved because the two Koreas are one people. Lectures by Party officials have also told us that, so people just want things to go well.
There have been lectures held at the central government offices, the Ministry of State Security (MSS) and Ministry of People’s Security (MPS) and at individual enterprises. The general message is that the Party decided that because separated families are Koreans they need to meet each other and that inter-Korean relations will improve. I heard about the third summit about 20 days before I came to China, around mid-August. I think that the General [Kim Jong Un] will [meet Moon] at the airport.
DNK: Kim Jong Un did actually meet Moon Jae In at the airport.
SPPR: Oh, did he? We expected that he would. Just like what happened when Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo Hyun visited.
DNK: Can you say that expectations [among the North Korean people] have increased in regard to [the improvement of] inter-Korean relations compared to the first and second summits [in 2000 and 2007]?
SPPR: Everything goes as the General has intended. Separated families were very disappointed about the first summit because we need to unify quickly to become one people again and a strong country, but this didn’t happen because so much focus is put into the military. It was the same situation during Roh Moo Hyun’s time. Nobody could say anything from the bottom. Now, however, the intentions are clear. Why? Our leader is young, unlike when Kim Dae Jung or Roh Moo Hyun visited.
He has generously improved relations with both South Korea and the US, and the lectures tell us that unification can happen because the two Koreas are one people and that we can become a strong country. I think that means that the Korean people want exchanges between the two Koreas without American interference. We just have to wait and see what happens.
DNK: Did the North Korean authorities send down any orders or conduct any crackdowns in the run-up to the summit?
SPPR: Whenever there is such an event, the entire week is considered a “special week.” Lectures are held in the provinces, cities and counties, and orders are handed down telling people not to talk loosely about South Korea or criticise it. We hold inminban meetings once or twice a week where this is also emphasized. During the September 9 events [celebrating the founding of the country], I wondered what would happen because our nuclear weapons weren’t in the military parade. But the government told the people that the state wants inter-Korean unification, and that it is working hard to focus on economic investment, rather than the military, to improve their lives. People understand that clearly now.
DNK: People were mobilized to greet the South Korean president at Sunan Airport and stood on the streets to welcome him. How were they selected?
SPPR: Those selected to welcome the president are from the Women’s Alliance (Socialist Women’s Union of Korea) and the Occupation Alliance (Korean Workers Alliance). The units within these alliances that have received special praise from Kim Jong Un are selected to go to the airport or its environs. Those who are part of the best units at state-run enterprises are selected first. There are many enterprises that have been praised by Kim Jong Un, so the best units are selected first followed by those from the two alliances.
The best workers from the factories including the Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory are selected as well. Some who went to the September 9 events were selected from my own neighborhood and they didn’t return from Pyongyang; they just stayed to welcome President Moon. There are places in Pyongyang that they can sleep and they’re given food. The generosity of the General is appreciated by the people. KCNA will likely broadcast President Moon’s arrival in the country. Previously, KCNA generally wouldn’t broadcast much more than just simple clips, but there’s much more being shown now. That’s how much the General wants inter-Korean relations to improve.
DNK: How do the North Korean people feel about President Moon?
SPPR: They were very critical of presidents Lee Myung Bak and Park Geun Hye. The two closed down the Kaesong Complex and were no more than agents of the US, but the North Korean people know about Moon’s efforts [to improve relations]. After seeing him hug the General at the “Unification Pavilion” during the second summit, they understand that he is working to make the two Koreas one again. All of this has happened in just the space of about a year, after all.
DNK: The summit focused on the issue of denuclearization. What do North Koreans think about it?
SPPR: People don’t talk about denuclearization and just believe [the words of] the General. The state doesn’t talk much about denuclearization. No mention is made about it in lectures, either. The lectures just say people need to believe in the General. We know that the General will make anything possible.
DNK: What kind of things are people talking about in regards to the recent summit in Pyongyang?
SPPR: People are talking about Christianity in South Korea, that South Korea has been blessed by God and that’s why it lives so well. People in North Korea don’t believe in Christianity because they’re not allowed to, but South Korea has been chosen as the best place to live in Asia so some people talk about that. In any case, everything depends on the General, so they believe that when the opportunity arises he will go to Seoul. They believe that exchanges will happen between Seoul [and Pyongyang] and that separated family reunions will continue, together with economic cooperation. They say Seoul is clean, so I also want to go sometime. I hope that the summit leads to better inter-Korean relations.
They say that the Kaesong Complex Liaison Office will be open 24 hours a day. The two Koreas are one people, so I hope things improve. Seventy years of separation is a short amount of time, no? I hope that unification happens. The US must not interfere, but because President Moon is working hard, I believe the Pyongyang summit will be a success.