[EDITORIALS]Seoul Visit Is Even More Necessary

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[EDITORIALS]Seoul Visit Is Even More Necessary

President Kim Dae-jung, in his address on the 46th Memorial Day, urged the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, to set a date for the Seoul visit that he committed to at the June 15 South-North Korea summit in Pyongyang last year. It is the second urging from Mr. Kim, in the wake of his words during a May 24 meeting with a group of foreign correspondents in Seoul.

The North Korean leader's Seoul visit was agreed in the June 15 Joint Declaration which the two Korean leaders signed. Organizing the visit requires favorable circumstances and a lot of preparation, but just as President Kim's Pyongyang visit last year opened a door to reconciliation between the two Koreas, Chairman Kim's Seoul visit can provide an exit from the diplomatic stalemate surrounding the peninsula.

Official contact between the two governments has been nil since March, when the North abruptly and unilaterally canceled the inter-Korean ministerial dialogue. The ship incursions into our waters and through the Northern Limit Line have raised tensions. The North has not answered our proposal to hold a secretary-level meeting of the Military Armistice Commission; all indications of a government not committed to pursuing reconciliation and cooperation.

In May, Chairman Kim told Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson that he will try to mend inter-Korean relations after the U.S. administration completes its review of policy toward North Korea. Pyongyang seems to be waiting to see how the Bush administration's hardline comments will be fleshed out in policy. Pyongyang should note that such fence-sitting can only complicate things. The affairs of the Korean people should be handled by the two Koreas, independently, as Pyongyang has long said. Should the conservative U.S. administration narrow Seoul's maneuvering room, all the more reason to end the inter-Korean stalemate.

North Korea's press on Wednesday stressed implementation of the June 15 Joint Declaration. If the North truly respects the declaration, their leader should respond to President Kim's calls to visit Seoul. Inter-Korean reconciliation should not be derailed only a year after the declaration was signed.
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