중앙데일리

In Pyongyang, no progress is made in official efforts to return captives

Apr 23,2006

Lee Jong-seok, right, South Korea’s unification minister, with Kwon Ho-ung, North Korea’s senior cabinet councilor, yesterday during a break in the negotiations in the North Korean capital. [Joint Press Corps]

Delegates from Seoul and Pyongyang seemed far apart on the second day of inter-Korean ministerial talks in the North Korean capital yesterday. The main stumbling blocks were Seoul’s demand for the return of prisoners of war and South Koreans abducted to the North after the war and joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises.
The talks began on Saturday; Lee Jong-seok, the minister of unification, left for Pyongyang on Friday on a direct flight from Incheon.
Seoul has laid down a marker for these talks, telling domestic groups campaigning for the return of prisoners and abductees that it would make additional aid for North Korea conditional on progress in getting them back. Mr. Lee said in his opening address at the talks on Saturday that if North Korea took “bold action” on the issue, “we will make corresponding decisions for cooperation.”
A senior Seoul official at the talks said its delegation had also offered to return 30 “unconverted” long-term political prisoners here back to the North in exchange. The official said that the talks also focused on Kim Yong-nam, a South Korean who was kidnapped in 1978 and has been one of the centers of a Japanese investigation into kidnappings by the North of its nationals. Mr. Kim, the Japanese say based on DNA tests, was the father of a child whose mother, Megumi Yokoda, was also abducted.
Seoul also offered to jointly develop magnesite mines in Danchon, in North Korea’s northwest, and to mine gravel from the western estuary of the Han River in the Demilitarized Zone.
Kwon Ho-ung, the North’s chief delegate, appealed to Seoul to allow tourists from both countries freer access to the other. He also threatened to end all cooperation with Seoul unless the South ended its joint military drills with U.S. troops.


by Lee Young-jong


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