The Northern Limit Line (NLL) is a maritime demarcation line between the two Koreas. Established on Aug. 30, 1953, after the end of the Korean War, North Korea would not challenge the line until 1973. As a result, the NLL has been the de facto maritime boundary between the two Koreas in the West Sea.
In 1973, when North Korea challenged the NLL, the United Nations Command dismissed the North’s demands as unacceptable claims that violated the terms and spirit of the armistice agreement.
Several times after this, the United Nations Command has made it clear that the NLL is a strict maritime boundary, one that the two Koreas have accepted and complied with for more than 40 years.
In September 1999, North Korea, breaking its acceptance of the NLL, unilaterally announced its West Sea Military Demarcation Line, for which it claimed its people would risk their lives. With this line, the North claimed that even the four South Korean islands located further south of the NLL (Yeongpyeongdo, Baengnyeongdo, Daecheongdo and Socheongdo) were the North’s territory. But the Kim Dae-jung administration sternly rejected this claim from the North.
Unexpectedly, however, South Korea is now in an uproar about the transcript of former President Roh Moo-hyun’s remarks on the NLL during his summit with Kim Jong-il. This situation demonstrates how South Korea is different from the U.S.
The assassination of John F. Kennedy, the 35th U.S. president, in 1963 was one of the biggest incidents in modern U.S. history. In the U.S., important records like those about the investigation of the assassination of a president are released to the public after 50 years. But, as several unsettling conspiracy theories were prevalent in society, Congress passed the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act in 1992, 29 years after the assassination.
According to this Act, the Assassination Records Review Board was formed to gather and release related records, which will be completed by Oct. 26, 2017. The documents were 500,000 pages in total, and one of the problems that arose when compiling this much information was that the CIA, a U.S. intelligence agency, refused to disclose 10 percent of the documents, the final 50,000 pages of documents.
This led to a political controversy in the U.S. Now, 50 years after the JFK assassination, most Americans do not care about the assassination. Rather, they are displeased with the demand from part of Congress to disclose the remaining 10 percent. The issue is over now.
This is not the case in South Korea. Each party only tries to use the NLL issue for its benefit. I don’t think that they are fighting with a genuine intent to let people know more fully about the dialogue in the summit. People, instead, will be more confused about why it is even important whether or not the late President Roh agreed with Kim Jong-il to make a peace zone area between the NLL and the line that North Korea announced unilaterally.
The NLL cannot be changed at Kim Jong-il’s will, as it is our demarcation line which was established by the North’s agreement with the United Nations Command. It is our line of defense for our territory, which 40 young soldiers of our country gave their lives to defend.
Fortunately, a team of 10 members of the National Assembly, five from the ruling party and five from the opposition party, has been formed to review the full transcript of the 2007 summit meeting between the two Koreas, which has been kept by the National Archives of Korea. Strangely, according to reports, the National Archives has not been able to find the original transcript.
This sounds like a detective story, and it seems that fights over this issue will become fiercer. In my opinion, each side should stop fighting and make this an occasion to gather the will to defend our territory by clearly revealing what happened.
Jay Kim is a former U.S. congressman. He serves as chairman of the Kim Chang Joon U.S.-Korea Foundation. For more information, visit Kim’s website at http://www.jayckim.com.