Seoul asks for talks on Kumgang on Friday

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Seoul asks for talks on Kumgang on Friday

In more signs of a possible thaw in relations between North and South Korea, Seoul yesterday requested talks with the North regarding the Mount Kumgang resort on Friday and also decided to allow flour aid to cross the inter-Korean border for the first time in eight months.

The Ministry of Unification made a request yesterday morning for working-level talks on the issue of South Korean assets at North Korea’s Mount Kumgang resort. The North has been placing pressure on the South to succumb to the North’s newly drawn law that states South Korea is no longer the sole contractor of the tourist resort at Mount Kumgang. During the last round of talks on July 13, North Korea told South Korean contractors and government officials to “comply with their needs or get out.”

Until now, the parties have delicately danced around resuming cross-border tourism, halted since 2008, but Seoul has decided that the issue may now be discussed at length during the working-level talks, indicating a softened stance toward the issue.

“We believe that we will be able to naturally discuss the issue of tourism as well as other small issues during the talks,” said Chun Hae-sung, a Unification Ministry spokesman.

The move comes a few days after nuclear envoys from both Koreas met in Bali, Indonesia, last Friday, followed by a meeting between both countries’ foreign ministers the day after.

Four hundred tons of flour will be delivered to North Korea this week in response to requests made by two private South Korean groups. The flour will be distributed to hospitals and facilities that care for children, in line with Seoul’s stance that aid only be given to children and the needy.

“After this [was done] we decided to give permission for these two cases of flour aid,” Chun said yesterday. The government has no plan of its own to provide aid to North Korea.

This is the first time flour has been permitted to be distributed to the North in eight months, after the last delivery of 36 tons of flour on Nov. 20, three days before North Korea attacked South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island.

By Christine Kim []

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

달라진 통일부 … 금강산 회담 제의 … 밀가루 지원 승인

통일부는 25일 북한에 전화 통지문을 보내 “금강산 관광 사업과 관련한 당면 문제를 협의하기 위해 29일 금강산에서 당국 간 실무회담을 열자”고 제의했다.

천해성 통일부 대변인은 “앞으로 금강산 문제는 당국 간에 논의해 풀자는 의미가 담겨 있고, 관광 재개에 대한 본질적인 문제도 논의할 수 있다고 본다”고 말했다.

회담이 성사되면 남북 당국 간 금강산 협의는 지난해 2월 개성 접촉 이후 17개월 만에 열리게 된다. 북한은 지난해 금강산지구 내 남측 자산에 대해 일방적으로 동결·몰수 조치를 취한 데 이어 올 들어 현대아산의 사업 독점권을 취소했다. 이어 5월 남측 기업의 금강산 내 부동산 등의 처분을 위협하며 중단된 금강산 관광 재개를 압박해왔다.

정부는 민족화해협력범국민협의회(민화협)가 신청한 북한 취약계층에 대한 대북 밀가루 300t(수송비 포함 1억8000만원) 지원과 천주교 측의 밀가루 100t의 반출도 이날 승인했다. 정부가 민간기구의 대북 밀가루 지원을 승인한 것은 지난해 11월 이후 8개월 만이다.

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