North Korea Monitor

The Story of the Stone

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This one keeps getting stranger by the minute.

 Kim Man Bok, the now ex-director of the South Korean National Intelligence Service, and his strange pre-election trip to Pyongyang left many a Korean watcher scratching their heads. Following his visit, Kim released transcripts of his conversations with his North Korean counterpart to a newspaper and then filed his resignation, which outgoing President Noh Moo Hyun refused to accept until this week. While Noh deemed the release “inappropriate,” the Noh administration has not determined the whether the documents were confidential or not.

Now, JoongAng Ilbo, (via Munhwa Ilbo) is reporting that the purpose of the visit was to replace a stone monument deemed unacceptable by Kim Jong Il:

The stone was apparently a revised version of an original monument, which President Roh Moo-hyun had planned to install in North Korea during the second inter-Korean summit in October. The monument, according to the article, was redesigned when the North’s leader, Kim Jong-il, refused to accept the original. Kim’s rejection, the article said, undermined Roh’s visit to the North, which the South had celebrated in the media.

The Blue House firmly denied these allegations:

“Even if the paper wanted to suggest some kind of political intention in this matter, it should at least have some common sense before writing about its theories,”

[Blue House Spokesman] Cheon [Ho Seon] said Roh returned to Seoul with the original stone monument, but only because Kim Jong Il failed to show up at the scene of the planting of the commemorative tree and the planned monument installation. Kim Yong-nam, chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, appeared in place of Kim Jong-il. “We were planning to bring it back if Kim could not make time to appear at the celebration, because it was only accurate if the two men watched the installation,” Cheon said. “It makes sense that the inscription was changed because Kim was not at the site.”

Here is an image of the stones, via JoongAng Ilbo:


The upper stone is the new stone, the lower stone is the original. The inscription on the top stone reads:

“To serve the dreams of a united people

Pyongyang October 2007

Republic of Korea President Noh Moo Hyun”

The incription on the bottom stone reads:

“To serve the dreams of a united people

Commemorating the October 2-4 2007 Pyongyang Visit

Republic of Korea President Noh Moo Hyun”

Frankly, I can’t see what all the fuss is about. Neither stone mentions Kim Jong Il’s name, or even hints at his presence. Perhaps Kim’s propaganda guys want to be able to whitewash Noh’s visit, should such considerations become necessary. Perhaps they don’t want any actual mention of such events to be set in stone (pardon the pun).  It wouldn’t be the first time they “changed” history.

UPDATE: Yonhap explains why Noh was forced to return the stone. They also note that Noh was “humiliated” by the North:

North Korean officials opposed the installation of Roh’s commemorative stone, contending that giant stone monuments on North Korean soil can be erected only in the name of its leader and his deceased father, Kim Il-sung, according to the report carried by the Munhwa Ilbo. (H/T ROK Drop)


Written by nkmonitor

February 15, 2008 at 2:07 am

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