Syncing Clocks, Taking Down Loudspeakers: North and South Korea Take Small Action towards Reunification

During the Inter-Korea Summit, Kim Jong Un commented that it “pains my heart” that the two clocks on the wall of the Peace House in Panmunjom truce village were set 30 minutes apart.  He suggested that the two Koreas “first unify the time” as they begin the process of reunification. Days later, North Korea wound clocks forward to sync time with South Korea.

Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-In,  Inter-Korea Summit

Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-In step across the 38th parallel at Panmunjom at the opening of the Inter-Korea Summit in April 2018. (Credit: UPI News)

Following the summit, Seoul’s defense ministry announced that it would begin removing dozens of speakers as part of the effort to lessen military tension along the border. This follows South Korea’s gesture of good to turn off loudspeakers prior to the summit. The speakers have been used to broadcast a mix of K-pop and anti-DPRK messages across the Demilitarized Zone intermittently since 1963. Prior to the summit, the North also silenced its own loudspeakers.

These small steps are expressions of both Korea’s commitment to reconciliation.

South Korea President Moon Jae-in and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un declared their commitment to denuclearize the peninsula and bring an end the Korean War in the Panmunjom Declaration signed at the landmark Inter-Korean Summit held in late April 2018.

Following the summit, the Demilitarized Zone has seen an increase in tourism. Local and international eyes remain focused on the unfolding next steps on the peninsula.

Feelings about reunification are still mixed, ranging from anger and fear, to doubt and optimism. But there is rising interest in peaceful reunification as the most viable solution to the crisis on the Korean peninsula.

It will be more complicated than moving clocks ahead 30 minutes or taking down speakers. Yet, as Hon. Donald Manzullo observed at the One Korea summit in Washington DC, “When have [Koreans] ever backs away from a challenge?… Koreans have always met their vision, no matter how hard the task.”

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