President Roh Regrets China's Claim to Old Kingdom, Urges Measures|
Moo-hyun expressed "deep regret" Friday over a diplomatic row between South
Korea and China stemming from the latter's recent claim to an ancient Korean
Kingdom and urged China to take measures to address South Korea's
By Hwang Doo-hyong
The president expressed regret to Jia Qinglin, chairman of the
National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, at
a meeting at the presidential office, according to Roh's spokesman Kim
In preparation for Jia's Seoul visit, Chinese Vice Foreign
Minister Wu Dawei visited Seoul earlier this week to reach a five-point verbal
understanding on the Koguryo Kingdom in which South Korean officials said China
pledged not to revise school textbooks that describe the kingdom as part of
Korea's history, and both sides agreed to make efforts to limit the issue to
academic rather than political debate.
China, however, fell short of
agreeing to restore references to Koguryo as part of Korean history on its
Foreign Ministry homepage that were deleted in April.
The history dispute
began earlier this year when a state-funded Chinese history project claimed that
Koguryo, which controlled the upper part of the Korean Peninsula and most of
northeastern China for about 700 years (37 B.C.-668 A.D.), is part of its
In the meeting with Jia, Roh demanded China fully reckon the
"serious attitude" of the South Korean government and people on the Koguryo
issue and take measures in accordance with the agreement made between the two
governments in a swift and convincing manner.
The Roh-Jia meeting was
held as hundreds of people representing 195 civic groups nationwide held a rally
at a park in downtown Seoul to denounce China for trying to lay claim to the
They urged China to stop the so-called Northeast Asia
Project, under which the Chinese government reportedly supports scholars in
research on the Koguryo history to help them lay the academic groundwork to
merge Koguryo into China's history.
"It is a clear violation that China
distorts the history of its neighbor for the benefit of its national interests,"
a participant said.
Jia, No. 4 in the hierarchy of China's Communist
Party who flew into Seoul Wednesday at the invitation of National Assembly
Speaker Kim One-ki, said China hoped the Koguryo issue would not undermine
relations and that the Chinese government will deal with the issue in full
consideration of the concerns of South Korea over the issue.
At the start
of his meeting with Roh, Jia conveyed a message from Chinese President Hu Jintao
on the Koguryo issue.
"The relationship between China and South Korea has
recently been affected to a certain degree by the issue of Koguryo," Hu was
quoted as saying. "We will be able to resolve each other's concerns properly,
with ample wisdom, if we respect and act with regard to each other from
long-term and strategic points of view."
The Chinese president was also cited
by Jia as saying that "It was not easy for China and South Korea to have
developed a bilateral relationship to this stage, and both sides need to keep
Earlier in the day, Jia met with National Assembly Speaker
In the meeting, Kim told Jia, "I cannot help but mention the
Koguryo history issue, as (South Korea's) public sentiment about it is
"The public considers the Koguryo issue as more important than any
other political and economic interests. With the visit of Chairman Jia, I hope
this issue will be resolved smoothly and the two countries' relations will be
developed further," Kim said.
Jia said he is well aware that the history
dispute has emerged as a "salient issue" that can damage the two countries'
"We're dealing with this issue in a sincere and responsible
manner," he said, adding that Beijing's dispatch of one of its vice foreign
ministers, Wu Dawei, to Seoul earlier this week reflects its sincere
In the meeting with Jia, Roh asked China to continue to play a
constructive role in resolving the North Korean nuclear arms issue, according to
the president's spokesman, Kim Jong-min.
Roh and Jia shared the
understanding that they need to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue in a
rapid, peaceful manner.
China, the closest communist ally of North Korea,
has successfully brokered three rounds of six-nation nuclear talks, but is
having difficulty persuading Pyongyang to come out for another round before the
end of September as earlier agreed, due mainly to the North lashing out at
Washington ahead of the November presidential election in the United
"Resolving the North Korean nuclear issue is a basis for peace in
Northeast Asia." Jia said in an ensuing meeting with Prime Minister Lee
Jia also said China has maintained a consistent policy that the
nuclear issue should be resolved peacefully through dialogue and the Korean
Peninsula should be free of nuclear weapons.
Premier Lee, for his part,
said, "If the North freezes and dismantles its nuclear program, we will provide
unsparing economic assistance and other support so that the North can reform and
On the Taiwan issue, President Roh reaffirmed the government's
support for China's position to maintain a "one China" policy in which it
considers Taiwan as part of China.
Roh also invited Chinese President Hu
to visit Seoul at an opportune time.
On the North Korean defector issue,
National Assembly Kim One-ki asked Jia to ensure humanitarian treatment of North
Koreans hiding in China, saying the defectors should not be sent back to their
communist homeland against their will.
Jia said his country does not
consider North Korean defectors as refugees. In spite of this, however, he said
he thinks the two countries will be able to deal smoothly with the issue if they
make efforts based on mutual respect and understanding.
(Yonhap News 2004-8-27)