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  • Inter-Korean NLL Negotiations: 3 Takeaways from the 2007 Summit Meeting Minutes

    July 1st, 2013  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    The South Korean government recently released the minutes of the historic summit between former South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. The Inter-Korean Summit was held in Pyongyang in 2007. The motivating factor behind the release of the Summit meeting minutes links to the recent controversy related to whether then President Roh made concessions regarding the Northern Line Limit (NLL), the de facto maritime border since the the end of the Korean War (1950-53) between the two Koreas.
    The summit dialogue–which reflects two very different bargaining styles–seems to demonstrate how South Korea appeared to want and value the negotiation more than the North.
    Excerpts linked with South-North negotiation strategies from the summit include:
    1. Roh Moo-hyun conveyed his detailed desire to resolve the NLL issue through a joint fisheries area and a maritime peace zone, to which Kim Jong-il merely stated that he would raise this issue in a subsequent ministerial meeting.
    – South Korea’s negotiation strategy: provide a clear roadmap of how the two sides (the two Koreas) can work in an “integrative” bargaining fashion, in the hope of forging a creative solution (i.e., viewing the NLL issue as a potential forward-leaning “deal-making negotiation” (DMN) rather than a traditional “dispute settlement negotiation” (DSN)).
    – North Korea’s negotiation strategy: provide no affirmative answer (to very specific suggestions), and relegate the issue to a lower level ministerial meeting (i.e., stall and demur, thus signaling that the leadership viewed the NLL issue in a Cold War era “DSN” perspective).
    2. When Roh asked that they meet again in the afternoon to discuss the matter further, Kim implied that the visiting South Korean president’s afternoon schedule was already full. “And what is there more to discuss? Haven’t we already covered the basic grounds?” he said, indicating he did not wish to push the topic further. Roh, however, insisted on another meeting in the afternoon and Kim finally gave in, saying, “I will agree since you are so persistent”
    – South Korea’s negotiation strategy: request more time with the ultimate “decision-maker” in a top-down Stalinist regime, which will maximize the likelihood of a proffered policy being implemented.
    – North Korea’s negotiation strategy: try to provide an opportunity for the South Korean leader to “save face” by suggesting that his schedule was already too full, which in a Korean context, is considered as a fairly clear “no” reply. This was followed by Kim Jong-il allowing for more time in the afternoon to meet and chat, which provides the bargaining advantage to North Korea, since Kim Jong-il provided a “[W]hat is there more to discuss?” standard for Roh Moo-hyun to subsequently satisfy for the afternoon talks. In addition, a sense of obligation and burden was placed on Kim Jong-il by Roh Moo-hyun for his insistence on further talks, which in a Korean context, is considered not to be in compliance with “proper” behavior, especially given that the South Korean president is the “visitor” who was essentially making a demand of the “host.”
    3. The summit was held in Pyongyang with a short timeframe for an agreement.
    – South Korea’s negotiation strategy: try to return to South Korea from the negotiations in Pyongyang with a symbolic and/or substantive agreement with the North that would help with Roh Moo-hyun’s legacy.
    – North Korea’s negotiation strategy: have the Inter-Korean summit negotiations held on its own “home turf,” while giving less than a full day between the two leaders to resolve complex historical issues that would normally take significantly longer to accomplish, especially given the relatively little contact between the two Koreas. Here, North Korea knows of its negotiation counterparty’s time deadline, which the North is using to its advantage by stalling the demurring on important issues to the former South Korean leader (who is additionally time-constrained due to the oncoming “lame duck” perception near the end of his constitutionally-mandated one-time five-year presidency, a political time constraint that Kim Jong-il obviously did not face).


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