The Joint Communiqué of July 4, 1972: Korea’s First Agreement on Unification: What was behind it?
In the spring of 1972, for the first time in their history, South and North Korea held high-level talks ostensibly aimed at reducing tension and moving toward reunification. The Joint Communique the ROK and DPRK signed on July 4 set forth principles to guide the process toward unification and practical steps to take toward that goal. They agreed that unification would be achieved through peaceful means, independently of foreign powers, and would begin by creating national unity that would transcend “differences in ideas, ideologies, and systems.”
The 1972 agreement proved to be short-lived. Meetings on implementation immediately revealed that the two sides had fundamentally different approaches to the practical steps toward unification. Then in 1974, the South discovered tunnels recently dug under the DMZ which were large enough to move North Korean military units into the ROK.
Was the 1972 Joint Communique a sincere attempt to find common ground on which to move toward peaceful unification? If not, what was its purpose? Prof. Kathryn Weathersby, a specialist on the history of the Korean War and postwar South/North Korean relations, will discuss what prompted both Korean states to turn toward each other in the wake of the Sino-American rapprochement of 1971. She will then examine documents from Romanian archives that reveal how Pyongyang viewed the utility of talks with Seoul during that time of international tumult.
Dr. Kathryn Weathersby teaches courses in the international history of Northeast Asia in the Department of History of Korea University. Before coming to Korea, she taught at the School of Advanced International Studies of The Johns Hopkins University. While in Washington DC, she directed a project at the Woodrow Wilson Center that uncovers documents from archives of North Korea’s former allies that shed light on the aims and actions of the DPRK.