[EDITORIAL] More Than Mere Condolences

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[EDITORIAL] More Than Mere Condolences

North Korea's decision to dispatch a delegation to pay condolences to the late Chung Ju-yung, honorary chairman of the Hyundai Group, is significant in many ways.

Some people may say it was a natural course of action, considering Mr. Chung's contribution to inter-Korean reconciliation by visiting the North and donating that nation herds of cows and then realizing the Mt. Kumgang tourism project. It seems that the Pyongyang expressed special respects with a condolence telegram from National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-il, followed by the dispatch of a group headed by Song Ho-kyong, vice-chairman of North Korea's Asia Pacific Peace Committee, and a wreath flown in from the North. This gesture is unusual, given the fact that the North called off inter-Korean ministerial talks after the Bush administration expressed a hard-line stance at the Seoul-Washington summit talks and the lack of progress in other inter-Korean talks as well.

Although closed-door contacts between the authorities of the North and the South did not seem to occur during the North delegation's short stay, the North delivered Chairman Kim's personal message to the Chung family that he hoped they would carry on his unfinished work. This does not appear to be simply requesting Hyundai to continue its North Korea projects; it may be correct to interpret these events as the desire to maintain cooperation between the Koreas.

Different opinions on the Bush government's hard-line North Korea stance have emerged in the United States, whereas the European Union is showing a tendency toward supporting Seoul's engagement policy on the North. In such a situation, what is most important is for the North and the South to strike a picture of consistency.

We urge the North to embark on negotiations to reschedule the delayed ministerial talks at an early date. Also the North should exchange working-level documents in connection with the delay in reconnecting the Seoul-Shinuiju railway lines. In particular, if Chairman Kim's return visit to Seoul is discussed in concrete terms in the ministerial talks, it would be construed as the most meaningful effort for continuing inter-Korean rapprochement and cooperation.
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