North, South envoys meet in Russia

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North, South envoys meet in Russia

South Korea’s special presidential envoy held talks on advancing inter-Korean relations with Kim Yong-nam, North Korea’s nominal head of state, during a massive ceremony in Moscow celebrating the 70th anniversary of Russia’s World War II victory, according to Seoul officials Sunday.

Ruling Saenuri Party Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun, a member of the National Assembly’s foreign affairs and unification committee, was dispatched by President Park Geun-hye on Friday to attend the celebration marking the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.

The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Yoon, also a special advisor on political affairs to the president, “had an opportunity to naturally encounter Kim” while attending the victory day event on Saturday.

“Special Envoy Yoon was able to make general points wishing well for North-South Korean relations,” the ministry said in a statement.

The two had a chance to hold one-on-one discussions on Saturday, Yoon told reporters in Moscow on Sunday. Yoon said he told Kim “that there needs to be an intent and sincerity to progress North-South relations.”

Kim’s response was that “things will work out well” when “sincerity is gathered,” according to Yoon.

Kim, the chairman of North Korea’s Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, attended the Russian celebrations instead of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who backed out of the visit at the last minute.

The North Korean leader had initially accepted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invitation to the ceremony, which would have been his first foreign visit since coming into power in December 2011. But Russian media reported that he rescinded his invitation last month.

As the ceremonial head, Kim Yong-nam often makes overseas trips and recently attended the Asia-Africa Conference, or Bandung meeting, in Indonesia last month.

Yoon was scheduled to hold a meeting with Yury Ushakov, foreign policy adviser to Putin, before returning to Seoul on Tuesday.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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