Time for a high-level meetingThe 20th reunion for families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War ended yesterday with a heart-wrenching farewell. At the three-day, two-night reunion after a 20-month hiatus due to tensions between South and North Korea, 981 South Koreans from 186 families met with their relatives in the North after six decades of painful separation. The event has ended smoothly, and now the two Koreas must tackle the challenge of improving inter-Korean ties down the road.
The reunion was part of a dramatic six-point deal made Aug. 25 after the North’s land mine provocations along the heavily armed border. Among the six agreements, both sides have carried out four of them: North Korea expressed regrets over the land mine explosions which maimed two South Korean soldiers, and the North lifted its declaration of a quasi-state of war in return for the South’s suspension of propaganda broadcasts with loud speakers. On top of that, both sides held the reunion as agreed. What’s left is a high-level meeting between both governments and a revitalization of civilian exchanges. The high-level meeting holds the key to energizing civilian exchanges.
In the deal, South and North Korea agreed to hold high-level talks either in Seoul or Pyongyang in the near future to improve inter-Korean relations. The North celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party without test-firing a long-range missile. North Korea also allowed separated families in the South to see their relatives in the North.
Now is the time to make a full-fledged effort to improve our relations with the North. A senior-level meeting is a precondition for the fundamental resolution of the tragic separation. At the same time, both sides must address such complicated issues as the resumption of Mount Kumgang tours; a lifting of the May 24 sanctions; the restoration of the Seoul-Wonsan railway; and the construction of a peace park around the demilitarized zone.
The high-level meeting is necessary to resolve the North’s nuclear threats, a primary obstacle to the enhancement of inter-Korean ties. In a joint communique by President Park Geun-hye and U.S. President Barack Obama after their Oct. 16 summit, both leaders agreed to deal with the nuclear issue with utmost urgency, while reaffirming their positions that they don’t pursue anti-North policies. The senior-level meeting can serve as a good opportunity to explain to the North their amicable positions. The governments must hold a high-level meeting as soon as possible.
*JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 27, Page 34