France set to open office in Pyongyang

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France set to open office in Pyongyang

France will be opening an office in Pyongyang to handle cultural cooperation. It will be headed by Olivier Vaysset, who has worked as cultural adviser at the French Embassy in France, Le Monde newspaper reported yesterday.

The office will be in charge of relaying cooperation projects on culture and language, the paper said.

It also emphasized that the installation of the office would not mean the start of official diplomatic relations between France and North Korea.

Keeping in mind that relations between North and South Korea have deteriorated over the past few years, France’s decision to set up an office in Pyongyang was not made in a hurry.

President Nicholas Sarkozy had appointed former Socialist Culture Minister Jack Lang to review the plan and discuss it with North Korean officials in November 2009.

Japan had expressed concern at the time and requested France for information on the project.

France is the only country in the European Union that does not have diplomatic ties with North Korea.

Former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said last March during a trip to Japan and South Korea that France would not open diplomatic relations with North Korea but rather establish an office there to support nongovernmental groups.

The French Embassy in Seoul was not immediately available for comment.

A South Korean government official said yesterday this was not an issue on which Seoul would make an official statement.

“I don’t think there are many instances like these where a long-term office is installed,” said one official from the Ministry of Unification.

“North Korea has frequent cultural exchanges with China and Russia, but there are few cases where another country will stay for an extended period of time for that purpose.”

The official said there have been previous cases in which North Korea would permit visitors from other countries to work on cultural projects, such as the restoration of paintings or excavations.

South Korea sent a team of experts in March 2010 for two months to form a joint group with North Korean archaeologists to uncover the remains of Manwoldae, a royal palace of the Goryeo Kingdom (918-1392) in Kaesong.


By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]


한글 관련 기사 [연합]

“佛, 평양에 상주사무소 설치” <르몽드>

문화 교류 목적으로 9월께 개설 가능성

유럽연합 주요국 중 유일하게 북한과 미수교국인 프랑스가 오는 9월께 평양에 문화 교류를 위한 상주사무소를 설치한다고 프랑스 일간 르몽드 인터넷판이 11일(현지시각) 보도했다.

르몽드는 프랑스 외교부 아시아국장이 12일 평양에 가서 북한 관리들과 만날 것이라며 이같이 전했다.

르몽드는 또 외교부에서 프랑스 대외정보기관인 DGSE와의 협력업무를 담당했던 올리비에 베세가 사무소를 책임질 것이라고 덧붙였다.

상주사무소 설치가 양국의 국교 수립을 뜻하는 것은 아니지만 장래에 두 나라의 관계 강화에 도움이 될 것으로 이 신문은 전망했다.

북한이 연평도에 포격하는 등 남북 관계가 악화하고 6자회담이 재개되지 않은 상황에서 프랑스가 북한에 사무소를 개설하기로 한 것은 다른 나라들과 차별화된 것이라고 르몽드는 평했다.

프랑스는 지난 2009년 12월 자크 랑 전 문화장관을 대통령 특사로 북한에 보냈고, 랑 전 장관은 문화 교류를 위해 사무소 설치를 제안했다.

그러나 북한의 핵개발에 대한 우려가 제기돼 평양에 사무소를 여는 것은 시기상조라는 의견이 제기되면서 개설이 늦어졌다.

앞서 지난해 3월 베르나르 쿠슈네르 당시 외교장관은 북한에 사무소를 여는 것은 비정부기구(NGO)의 활동을 지원하려는 것일 뿐 대사관을 개설할 계획이 없다고 밝혔다.

한편 북한 조선중앙통신은 11일 프랑스 외교부 대표단이 평양에 도착했다고 보도했다.

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