6/14/13

Flashback: Fights over seating arrangements between the two Koreas


The New York Times has the kind of article I like--a review of an issue/event that includes a bit of history to remind readers to be skeptical of today's optimistic headlines.
During border talks decades ago, the sides took the competition over protocol and appearances to the extreme, with North Korean military officers secretly adding inches to the legs of their chairs so they would look taller than their counterparts across the table from South Korea and the United States.
In those cold-war-era meetings, the sides usually exchanged invectives and retorts. But they also sometimes persisted in silence — for over 11 hours in one session in 1969 — challenging the other side to speak first.
In the best-known contest of pride on the divided peninsula, North and South Korea once engaged in a race over which country could raise its national flag higher over the heavily fortified border. That battle was eventually settled with the North beating the South; today, the North’s flagpole stands over 500 feet tall, beating the rival South’s by roughly 200 feet.
Of course, they can't mention everything in every article, but I would just like to add the previous battles over the seating arrangements at such meetings.

From March 1998:

Seating Squabble Gets Peace Talks Off To Slow Start 
March 17, 1998|By From Tribune News Services.


THE KOREAS — Talks to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula became mired in procedural wrangling Monday in Geneva, with delegates quibbling about seating arrangements and the format of the peace talks.
The discussions to forge a permanent peace treaty between North and South Korea were delayed several hours before delegations sat down around a square table.
Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Jian, who headed the meeting, said the atmosphere was good-- "eventually."

From Voice of America, March 18, 1998 (in all caps, as posted)
NO PROGRESS HAS BEEN REPORTED IN THIS SECOND ROUND OF TALKS.
BUT OBSERVERS SAY NORTH KOREA'S WILLINGNESS TO ENGAGE IN A
TWO-WAY DIALOGUE WITH ITS SOUTHERN NEIGHBOR SHOULD WARM THE ATMOSPHERE. 
THE TALKS GOT OFF TO A ROCKY START ON MONDAY. DISCUSSIONS WERE
DELAYED FOR MORE THAN FIVE HOURS WHILE THE DELEGATES SORTED OUT A DISPUTE ABOUT SEATING ARRANGEMENTS. NORTH KOREA FINALLY GOT ITS WAY AND WAS ALLOWED TO SIT OPPOSITE THE AMERICAN DELEGATION INSTEAD OF FACING THE SOUTH KOREANS AS IT HAD DURING THE FIRST ROUND OF TALKS IN DECEMBER. 
ALTHOUGH TWO DAYS OF PROCEDURAL WRANGLING HAVE FINALLY BEEN SORTED OUT, OBSERVERS SAY NOT MUCH OF SUBSTANCE HAS YET BEEN DISCUSSED.

Koreas summit anniversary halts over VIP seating arrangements

Posted on : Jun.16,2007 17:11 KSTModified on : Jun.17,2007 20:43 KST
North Korea effectively halted all scheduled events at a joint celebration marking the seventh anniversary of the historic inter-Korean summit by preventing a South Korean lawmaker from sitting in the VIP area at a "unity event," pool reports said Friday.
The celebration in Pyongyang stopped when organizers told Rep. Park Kye-dong that he would not be seated with other dignitaries.
The two-term lawmaker from the conservative Grand National Party (GNP) is part of the 284-member South Korean delegation that arrived in the North Korean capital on Thursday.
The incident occurred in the morning at the People's Palace of Culture, when North Korean officials blocked Park's entry.
"The North gave no reason why the GNP lawmaker could not sit in the VIP area," said a spokesman for the South Korean delegation.He added that organizers did not listen, even though the South Korean side told them that seating arrangements were agreed upon in advance.
In recent months, Pyongyang has consistently blasted the conservative party and warned that if its candidate wins the upcoming presidential election in December, hostilities between the two Koreas could flare up.


Jung Yeon-Je/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
South Korean activists prepare to set an effigy of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on fire during an anti-Pyongyang rally in Seoul on Wednesday.

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