[EDITORIALS]Promises, or real promises?

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[EDITORIALS]Promises, or real promises?

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il gave clear and unreserved answers on some key issues between the two Koreas during his meeting Monday with Park Geun-hye, a South Korean lawmaker and the daughter of former President Park Chung Hee. According to Ms. Park, Kim Jong-il promised a joint investigation by the two Koreas of the Geumgangsan dam, which Seoul fears might collapse. The North Korean leader also vowed to set up a meeting place for separated families and to confirm the whereabouts or fate of South Korean soldiers missing during the 1950-1953 Korean War. If what Representative Park said during a press conference is true, Mr. Kim has taken the right direction toward building mutual trust between the two Koreas and seeking mutual prosperity, reconciliation and cooperation.

Representative Park can take credit for possibly improving the inter-Korean relationship, which is in a temporary stalemate due to the Geumgangsan dam issue. In particular, we note Mr. Kim's progressive and positive stance concerning pending issues between the North and the South. The question is, however, whether the North is really willing to put those promises into practice.

If Pyeongyang wants to confirm what Mr. Kim promised an opposition lawmaker, not a government official, it should immediately reschedule the second round of economic cooperation talks, which it called off unilaterally, to discuss re-linking cross-border railroads and roads and set up a joint examination of the North Korean dam. A family meeting site and information about our missing soldiers are issues entirely in the North's hands; Seoul has no choice but to wait for Pyeongyang to act on those issues and on the reconnection of a cross-border railroad on the east coast that Seoul has linked to the establishment of a meeting point for separated family members.

There are suspicions about why Mr. Kim made such important concessions to a leader of an opposition party, bypassing official channels. Some suspect that the North wants to influence our presidential election in December. If the North quells such suspicions and implements Mr. Kim's pledges, it should return to the negotiating table and make the promises official. Seoul should then devise ways to exploit the advances made at the Park-Kim meeting.

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