Summit preparations get down to the wire

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Summit preparations get down to the wire

Although the leaders of both Koreas have agreed to meet next week in Pyongyang, low-level officials from both countries have yet to discuss preparations for the summit.

A senior Blue House official told reporters on Wednesday that the presidential office had not received word from North Korea about holding a working-level meeting to plan for the summit.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is set to travel to Pyongyang for three days of talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un from Sept. 18 to 20. When the two sides agreed to hold a summit, the third between the two leaders, in the North Korean capital, they also agreed to hold a planning meeting to fine-tune details related to protocol, communications and security.

The initial expectation was that the meeting would take place earlier this week, but that appears to have been pushed back. The Blue House official said the meeting should be held “as early as possible” since an advance team has to be sent to Pyongyang ahead of the summit. A separate meeting of defense officials from both Koreas is set to take place today at the border village of Panmunjon, where they will likely discuss the military agenda at the summit.

Among the logistical details that still need to be hashed out is how Moon will get to the North Korean capital. South Korean President Kim Dae-jung flew to Pyongyang on a direct route over the Yellow Sea when he met North Korean leader Kim Jong-il for the first-ever inter-Korean summit in 2000. In 2007, South Korea’s Roh Moo-hyun walked across the land border separating the two countries and rode by car to Pyongyang.

Moon could opt to fly out of consideration for a remark that Kim Jong-un made during their first summit together in April when he quipped that Moon should fly to Pyongyang because of the North’s subpar roads.

Another issue to discuss is logistics and security for the South Korean delegation, which the Blue House said on Monday would number around 200. Major business and political figures are expected to be in the group, including Lee Hae-chan, chairman of the ruling Democratic Party; Lee Jung-mi, chairwoman of the progressive Justice Party; and Chung Dong-young, chairman of the center-left Party for Democracy and Peace.

Leaders of the conservative Liberty Korea Party and center-right Bareunmirae Party were also invited but refused to attend, arguing that their presence in Pyongyang would only help the Blue House score political points. They also accused the administration of being disrespectful for publicly inviting them to the summit without first asking them privately whether they would go.

In response, the Blue House official said Moon had been more than respectful of the National Assembly by sending his chief of staff, Im Jong-seok, instead of a press secretary to make the public announcement.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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