Inter-Korean Thaw Sparks Rumors

Rumor is rife about behind-the-scenes meetings between the two Koreas, especially since a U.S. official claimed North Korean leader Kim Jong-il invited President Lee Myung-bak to a summit.

An academic who advises the government on North Korea policies said, "Rumor has it that a former corporate CEO who is close to Lee is meeting with a North Korean official in a third country like China. Such rumors seem to be rampant because no one can find traces of the National Intelligence Service or the Unification Ministry making contact with North Korean agencies as they did under previous governments."

An intelligence source said, "Many people speculate that if there is progress in the North Korean nuclear issue, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il would fly to Seoul or the two leaders would meet in a trilateral or quadrilateral summit in a third country like China."

The rumors are fueled by the recent polite atmosphere between the two Koreas. The North Korean press, in rejecting Lee's idea of a "grand bargain" to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear program, spoke of a "high authority in South Korea" instead of mentioning Lee by name. South Korea hushed up its search and seizure of four North Korean shipping containers under UN Security Council Resolution 1874. Nor did the South react seriously to the North's test of five short-range missiles on Oct. 12.

New developments are happening unprecedentedly fast. South Korea proposed talks to the North on Oct. 12; North Korea accepted the proposal on Oct. 13; and the North expressed regret on Oct. 14 over the death of six South Koreans in the wake of its sudden discharge of water of a dam into the Imjin River in early September.

englishnews@chosun.com / Oct. 20, 2009 10:54 KST