North likely to officially call for talks

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North likely to officially call for talks

The Ministry of Unification believes it is likely that North Korea will soon make an official proposal for inter-Korean talks, a government source told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.

North Korea made another overture - more formal and specific - for bilateral talks with the South on Saturday, after Seoul dismissed its initial proposal on Wednesday as insincere. The back-to-back requests were made by the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland through the state-run Korean Central News Agency, which the South Korean government considered as insufficient to warrant an official reaction.

“We see that North Korea, beefing up its rhetoric for talks with the South at the beginning of the new year, will make a specific proposal through telephone in the near future,” said a ministry official. The official said that Kim Yang-gon, director of the Unification Front Department of North Korea’s Workers’ Party, would likely send a telephone message to Unification Minister Hyun In-taek and suggest talks between South and North Korean authorities.

The ministry held an emergency meeting over the weekend, with Hyun presiding, to discuss the North’s latest proposal. “No one else can solve this grave situation today, and we, the two concerned parties and the same [Korean] people, should sit across from each other to settle this,” said the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland in its statement on Saturday. “While [the South] is actively involved in dialogue with others located in the distance, it keeps a fence against its same people who are close, which is not right.”

Ministry officials had dismissed the North’s Wednesday offer of “unconditional and early” talks with the South as insincere because it did not come with an apology for the recent provocations. Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-Joo said yesterday that the North’s latest offer still leaves questions about its sincerity, because the North has not sent a request for talks through official channels.

But, she said the government could review the proposal depending on the North’s attitudes in coming days. The South’s seemingly softened attitude toward the North’s latest proposal for talks is seen as partly due to the fact that the North is responding to the South’s claims and not just repeating its request.

“[The South] demanding several conditions, like sincerity, without even trying to meet cannot be seen as having a sincere attitude,” it said. “If the North and South sit across from each other and talk heart-to-heart, they will be able to overcome misunderstanding.”


By Lee Young-jong, Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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