Rekindling the flame
South and North Korea have agreed to hold working-level talks on Thursday, at the truce village of Panmunjom to keep up the dialogue momentum agreed in high-level talks on Aug. 25. Seoul has since asked continuity in the talks, but Pyongyang has been deferring them without clear reason. The resumption in dialogue raises hope that the two Koreas could go on mending ties in a reconciliatory mood after the reunion of war-torn families in September.
But it is too early to get our hopes up. Talks with Pyongyang aren’t definite just because the date is set. The two Koreas have often failed to hold actual meetings after lengthy discussions over delegation members and agendas.
However, we must be as engaging as possible not to waste the momentum. North Korea has been slipping out of international attention as the world is engrossed with the terrorism wrought by the Islamic State. China is busy with its major infrastructure program and economic agenda and also must join the international fight against terrorist groups. It is left to us to persuade the Pyongyang regime to pursue peace and reform.
Pyongyang so far seems to be ready to comply. Although there had been concerns, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un did not include military provocations, such as test firing long-range missiles and nuclear weapons, with the 70th anniversary of the Workers’ Party in October. There would have been pressure from Beijing, but Pyongyang also would not have risked ruining hard-won improved relationship with Seoul.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is also expected to visit Pyongyang soon. Pyongyang won’t likely have Ban return home empty-handed after the much-publicized visit. The U.N. and Pyongyang could be working out breakthroughs on a humanitarian level such as regular family reunions and an increase in civilian exchanges. Both Koreas must work hard to keep the engaging mood alive.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 21, Page 30