South Korea offers to hold high-level talks with North Korea

August 11, 2014

(Yonhap) — South Korea offered to hold high-level talks with North Korea next week on the reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War and other issues of “mutual concern.”

In a fax message to Pyongyang on Monday, the South proposed that a fresh round of high-level, inter-Korean talks take place at the truce village of Panmunjom on Aug. 19, Seoul’s unification ministry said.

The South asked the North to propose another date if it wants, said the ministry.

“We want to discuss family reunions and other pending inter-Korean issues in a comprehensive manner,” Unification Minister Ryoo Khil-jae told reporters.

He stressed that any issue related to South-North relations could be raised when a meeting occurs, adding that Seoul fully agrees on the need to improve ties with Pyongyang.

Should the North’s delegates raise such sensitive issues as the economic sanctions known as the May 24th Measures and the suspended joint tour program to Mount Kumgang, the South will listen to their views and explain its position, said the minister.

It remains unclear whether Pyongyang will respond positively to Seoul’s latest olive branch, especially as the South is preparing to kick off a joint military training exercise with the U.S. next week.

If held, it would be the second high-level inter-Korean meeting since the launch of the conservative Park Geun-hye administration one and a half years ago.

The two Koreas had the previous round in February but produced no major agreement. The South was represented by Kim Kyou-hyun, deputy chief of the presidential office of national security, and his northern counterpart was Won Dong-yon, the deputy head of the United Front Department.

This photo shows South and North Korean delegates holding high-level talks at Panmunjom in February. (Yonhap file photo)

This photo shows South and North Korean delegates holding high-level talks at Panmunjom in February. (Yonhap file photo)

Seoul’s unexpected overture came four days before the 64th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan’s colonization.

South Korea’s leader often puts forward a major proposal for reconciliation with the North in his or her Liberation Day speech that is televised nationwide.

Last week, President Park presided over an inaugural session of a high-profile presidential panel designed to prepare for the reunification of Korea.

Park has openly said reunification would be a “bonanza,” not only for the two Koreas but also for neighboring nations.

On her trip to the former East German city of Dresden in March, she unveiled Seoul’s unification vision, dubbed the “Dresden Declaration,” which revolves around a push for promoting the “humanity, co-prosperity and integration” of the two Koreas as part of her administration’s reunification vision.

Park is trying to keep up the momentum of her signature unification agenda.

Earlier Monday, the unification ministry, which handles inter-Korean relations, said it will provide North Korea with US$13.3 million in humanitarian aid via the World Food Program and the World Health Organization.

Raising hopes of a thaw in frosty inter-Korean ties, the North also plans to join the Asian Games set to open in September in the South’s western port city of Incheon.

The two sides have yet to narrow differences over some details including who will pay for the cost of the North Korean delegation’s stay here.