2nd group can now contact North Koreans

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2nd group can now contact North Koreans

The South Korean government on Wednesday gave a local civic group permission to contact its North Korean counterpart to prepare for a joint event celebrating the 17th anniversary of an inter-Korea declaration promoting peace between the two countries.

The group, the All-Korean Committee for Implementation of the June 15 Joint Declaration in South Korea, was the second local civic group to gain such approval under the Moon Jae-in administration, after the Korean Sharing Movement on May 27.

Private person-to-person communication between the two Koreas was prohibited by the former conservative Park Geun-hye administration since January 2016, following the North’s fourth nuclear test.

The June 15 committee has not elaborated on any specific details of the event, but said it will likely be held in either Pyongyang or Kaesong, both in North Korea, which would require separate approval from the South Korean government if they were to physically go there.

The Ministry of Unification, which handles inter-Korea relations and granted the approval, said Thursday it has not received a request yet from the committee for a visit.

The ministry did not specifically say whether there is any other reason behind giving the green light to a group, whose foundation lies in the historic June 15th North-South Joint Declaration, but local experts speculate that Moon may be aiming to set new peaceful grounds with Pyongyang in time for the 17th anniversary, less than two weeks away.

The last time the committee held a joint function with its North Korean counterpart was in 2008.

Moon has promised a new approach to North Korea that will include condemning its nuclear and missile developments while engaging in bilateral dialogue, a stark difference from the former Park Blue House, which made denuclearization a prerequisite for any talks.

The joint declaration was adopted on June 15, 2000, by former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il as a result of the 2000 inter-Korea summit, the first time since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War that leaders of both Koreas came face-to-face for discussions.

The five-point declaration says Seoul and Pyongyang agreed to “solve the question of the country’s reunification independently by the concerted efforts of the Korean nation,” to promote the “balanced development” through economic cooperation and “build mutual confidence by activating cooperation and exchanges in all fields.”

The Unification Ministry said it would stick to its original stance of responding firmly to provocations from North Korea while reviewing possible humanitarian support and exchanges at the private level, within the boundaries of international sanctions against the regime. Around 10 other civic groups are known to have asked for permission to engage in talks with North Koreans.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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