`Beijing Asked for Deal on Gando'

China asked South Korea to promise it will not stake a claim on Gando, a disputed region north of the North Korean border, when it held talks with Seoul last month to patch up the history dispute over the ancient kingdom of Koguryo, sources said. Beijing has been very concerned about the recent move by a group of South Korean lawmakers to nullify the Gando Convention, signed in 1909 between China¡¯s Qing Dynasty and imperial Japan, which ruled Korea until 1945, a government official said.``When China¡¯s Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei had negotiations with his South Korean counterpart Choi Young-jin last month, he mentioned the Gando problem, which he said was arousing concerns of the Chinese government,¡¯¡¯ the official said on condition of anonymity. ``Beijing wanted Seoul to agree that South Korea would never mention the territorial dispute,¡¯¡¯ he said. ``But Seoul rejected the call, saying the claims are just being made on a non-government level, including private media, lawmakers and historians.¡¯¡¯ Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Ban Ki-moon also made it clear that South Korea did not make any secretive agreement about the Gando problem in last month¡¯s negotiations.``We don¡¯t have any such agreement with China about that issue,¡¯¡¯ he said during a weekly media briefing last Wednesday, denying a news report earlier that day that South Korea agreed with China not to mention the Gando issue. Ban said last month that the Gando problem should be dealt with very cautiously since it is a very delicate matter involving many countries, including North Korea. Ban¡¯s remark drew special attention since he left the possibility open for South Korea to take issue with the 1909 pact, which set the current border between China and North Korea, in the future _ probably after the reunification of the two Koreas. Japan ceded territorial rights of Gando, which belonged to Choson before it was colonized by Japan, to the Qing Dynasty in 1909 for its exclusive rights to build and control a railway in Manchuria. Despite these changes, the inhabitants of Gando were mostly Koreans and the area remained under significant Korean influence. Historians assert it is illegitimate, as the agreement was made during the period of Japanese colonial rule. Japanese treaties concerning Korea during the colonial rule were rendered illegitimate after the fall of the Japanese Empire. A group of 59 legislators recently pushed for a resolution asserting the invalidity of the 1909 convention. Seoul and Beijing have been engaged in another history dispute over Koguryo as China staged a systemic campaign to stake claim to the ancient Korean kingdom. The two neighboring countries reached a five-point ``verbal understanding¡¯¡¯ on Aug. 24 on the Koguryo problem through the intensive talks between Choi and Wu. In the loosely worded agreement, China promised that it would no longer attempt to misrepresent the history of Koguryo at the government level. Most Koreans believe Koguryo, a kingdom of hunting tribes that ruled much of modern day North Korea and Chinese Manchuria from 37 B.C. to A.D. 668, is an essential part of their history. Both South and North Koreans take pride in the legacy of Koguryo, especially its independent spirit, military might and cultural achievements.

By Ryu Jin / Staff Reporter

(Korea Times 2004-9-12)