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Essay of S. Korean Union Leader on Visit to Pyongyang

By Cho Jun Ho, People’s Korea, 7 July 1999

Here we introduce an essay on a trip to the DPRK written by , one of representative of the Korean Confederation of Trade Union. The south Korean delegates discussed the question of holding an inter-Korean soccer match, with the General Confederation of Labor of Korea during their stay on Apr. 27 to May 2. Both sides had signed an epoch-making agreement, which is scheduled to kick off a soccer event in Pyongyang on Aug. 10. This essey appeared on a homepage of KCTU.

Warm Hospitality

For a history-making meeting in Pyongyang, vice chairman Ri Kyu Jae and I visited the DPRK with great honor and pride as a delegation representing the Korean Confederation of Trade Union. We reached Sunan Airport in Pyongyang at 2:30 on April 27.

At the Airport, we were welcomed by members of the General Confederation of Labor of Korea (Jik-Maeng) including its Vice-President Ri Jin Su, whom we came to know at a Beijing meeting held last March.

While they were escorting us to the Koryo Hotel by car, we saw streets filled with crowds, welcoming us. I felt full of gratitude to their unexpected hospitality.

Awakened next morning (Apr. 28), I did feel I was in Pyongyang. Maybe, it was a sort of curiosity and relief. I might have grown sentimental.

Their hospitality never ceased during our Pyongyang stay.

In Seoul, I sometime skipped a meal for labor activities or other things. In Pyongyang, I always took three meals a day. This unfamiliar custom rather disturbed my rhythm of life, although it was something I could not complain about.

It was Yang Jong Hui, a 23-year-old beautiful and smart lady, who took care of our meals and other things. She might be our closest person during our visit.

We spent our second day on sightseeings and a Jik-Meng-hosting reception. Our tour included Mangyongdae (birth place of the late President Kim Il Sung), Suksorim, a historical site in which the Joint Conference for Political Parties and Organizations was held with the presence of mentor Kim Gu in 1948. We also enjoyed a short subway ride.

Talks and Trip to Worker’s House

At 2 p.m. the next day (Apr. 29), we started talks with our three north Korean counterparts including vice chairman Ri Jin Su at the Koryo Hotel.

Let’s produce positive results at this laborers’ meeting, which has been realized by the historical Pyongyang visit by south Korean workers, vice chairman Ri said.

We are much obliged to you for your big welcome. We have been able to finally meet with you through hardships. We are convinced that we will attain a good result since it is a negotiation between inter-Korean workers, our side replied.

The meeting, which lasted for three hours, was designed for confirming two parties’ positions on the scale and site of the planed Inter-Korean Laborers’ Soccer Event, the entrance route and its logo mark. Thus, we decided to discuss details at the next round of talks.

We had dicided to go back to Seoul on Apr. 29. And this was the reason why our home-coming was delayed.

The north side was in the midst of its busiest season of the year to hold May Day celebrations. Although our counterparts accepted our proposal and started to discuss the subjects on various levels, the two parties unable to finish the discussion as the planed day or by the deadline date.

Furthermore, April is the busiest month for the north with many foreigners busily coming and going to honor the birthday of the late President Kim Il Sung. After all, we failed to purchase our return air tickets.

Therefore, we spent the day by visiting the Mansudae Art Theatre, Pyongyang Students and Children’s Place, and spent the evening on the bank of the Taedong River where we could see Pyonganites spending doing fishing and dating.

The Teadong River had its special beauty. I thought the evening glow in the north was as beautiful as the south.

Ri Jing Su invited us to his house and we accepted his offer. Living with Mr. and Mrs. Ri in their 25-tsubo apartment (tsubo = 3.3 square meter) was their youngest daughter, who was wating for her marriage. Ri Jing Su was a mineworker before graduating a university.

On May 1, we walked around Pyongyang city visiting the Mangyongdae Amusement Park, the riverside of the Teadong and Tano Hill where we were treated a meal by local people in a small party. We visited the Sangwong Cement Factory in the afternoon and participated in a sport event together with workers there. We also paid visit to a home of ordinary worker’s family.

In the evening, we were invited to a dinner party under the sponsorship of the chairman of the Muncipal People’s Committee of Pyongyang. I would like to express to you my hearty welcome for coming to Pyongyang as a delegation of all workers in south Korea, and I hope our national unity will be realized as soon as possible, the chairman said in his speech.

On May 2, we came back from Mt. Myohyang to Pyongyang. While we were going back to the hotel after seeing the circus which was known as the top level one in the world, students of Kim Il Sung University came to us. To our surprise, we found among them an unexpected person. The person, who was seven years old in 1989, had always been carried by Rim Su Gyong when she visited Pyongyang as a delegate of the National Council of Students Representatives (Chongdaehyop). She was known as a tiny poet at that time. She had said, Please say hello to Rim Su Gyong!

The second round of our talks started on the evening of May 2. We talked over matters of mutual concern including the timing of the soccer game.

We proposed to hold the meeting in July and October. However, the north side said that it would be difficult to hold the event in July since the north Koreans scheduled to hold memorial events in commemoration of the 5th anniversary of the death of the late President Kim Il Sung.

We further asked them to organize double events in Seoul and Pyongyang within this year. The north side did not to agree with the semiannual events, but offered to a Seoul game next year. If the soccer game is held in Seoul in August of 2000, it would contribute toward regularizing the event, the north side said.

As for the logo, the north insisted on a soccer ball with a map of the Korean Peninsula but finally agreed with our proposal.

As for the entrance route of participants, we left the matter to the 10-Men Joint Preparation Committee, and finished the negotiation.

Next day, we visited the Tomb of Tangung together with Kim Il Sung University students. We could see the inside of the tomb which was not usually opened to the public. Returning to the hotel, we prepared for our departure. We exchanged gifts with president Om Sun Gik of the KCTU at a farewell party in the evening.

At 9:00 on May 4, we left Pyongyang for Beijing with deep emotion and joy over the fact that we reached a historical agreement, as well as with a deep sorrow over the reality of the national division.

Joint Agreement

The representatives of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and the representatives of the Central Committee of the Korean General Confederation of Labor (Jik-Maeng) met in Pyongyang on April 29 and May 2, 1999 on the basis of the agreement adopted in Beijing meeting have arrived at the following agreement.

The two sides acknowledged that the first ever visit to Pyongyang by KCTU delegation since the division of the nation and people was a significant moment in the ongoing endeavor to realize the three principles of national reunification adopted by the south and north Korea and in working towards national reconciliation, unity and reunification.

The two sides will hold ’the south and north Korean Workers’ Football Gathering in Aspiration for Reunification’ on August 10 in Pyongyang as a first step towards building solidarity and unity between workers of the south and north Korea.

As a part of this, the two sides will use the logo of ’the south and north Korean Workers’ Football Gathering in Aspiration for Reunification’ proposed by the KCTU which depicts a football at the center of the map of entire Korea as the official logo of the football gathering; the name of the gathering will be known as ’North and South Korean Workers’ Football Gathering in Aspiration for Reunification’ when it is held in Pyongyang and ’The South and North Korean Workers’ Football Gathering in Aspiration for Reunification’ when it is held in Seoul.

The two sides will, for the preparation of the workers football gathering, establish a Joint Preparation Committee to be jointly headed by a vice-president of the each organization and to be composed of five persons from affiliate unions and workers’ leagues.

The Joint Preparation Committee will be responsible for logistic matters in the course of organizing the football gathering and shall continue to conduct consultation to deal with preparatory matters.

The two sides will hold ’The South and North Korean Workers’ Football Gathering in Aspiration for Reunification’ in Pyongyang in full celebration and good wishes of the entire people and will contribute to the creation of improved relations between south and north Korea and hold the next football gathering in Seoul in August the next year.

Korean Confederation of Trade Unions
Ri Kyu Jae

Central Committee, Korean General Confederation of Labor
Ri Jin Su

May 2, 1999