Two Koreas to hold talks today

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Two Koreas to hold talks today

South and North Korea will hold a high-level meeting today at the border village of Panmunjom - in the same building where both their leaders held a landmark summit last month - in order to discuss ways to implement agreements made in the declaration they signed at the summit.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles relations with the North, did not mention what issues would be specifically discussed, but a local government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Seoul’s utmost interest was on the reunion of family members separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

In the Panmunjom Declaration, signed by South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on April 27 at the Peace House, a South Korean-controlled building in Panmunjom, both countries agreed to hold a family reunion on Liberation Day, Aug. 15, when Korea was liberated from Japanese colonial rule in 1945. The last family reunion took place in December 2015.

North Korea informed the South that it would send five officials to the high-level meeting today, while 24 others will accompany them, including support staff, aides and reporters. The 29-member delegation will be led by Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country of the DPRK, a cabinet-level organization within the North Korean government in charge of relations with South Korea. DPRK is the acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The four other North Korean officials who will enter talks are Kim Yun-hyok, vice minister of railways; Won Kil-u, vice minister of physical culture and sports; Pak Yong-il, vice chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country of the DPRK; and Pak Myong-chol, vice chairman of the National Economic Cooperation Committee, a cabinet-level agency overseeing South-North economic cooperation.

The South’s Unification Ministry said its five-member team of negotiators will be led by Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon and include four other high-level government officials from the ministries of unification; land, infrastructure and transport; culture, sports and tourism; as well as the Korea Forest Service.

South Korean officials initially proposed to the North last week that they hold the high-level meeting on Monday, but the North suggested yesterday that they hold the meeting today, the Unification Ministry said. The ministry did not provide an explanation for the delay.

On another front, Pyongyang informed Seoul on Tuesday that eight South Korean reporters - four from a news agency and four from a broadcaster - would be allowed to visit North Korea from March 23 to 25 to cover its demolition of a nuclear test facility in the northeastern part of the country.

The reporters will receive their visas from the North Korean embassy in China and fly a chartered plane from Beijing to Wonsan, in North Korea’s southeastern Kangwon Province, next Tuesday along with other international reporters from Russia, China, the United States and United Kingdom.

The reporters will take a train from Wonsan to Punggye-ri, where the test facility is located, to cover its demolition and return to Wonsan, where they will be allowed to transmit their coverage at a press center.

Pyongyang said the reporters will be required to pay for their own expenses during the stay.

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