S.Korean Officials in Talks with the North 'Lack Expertise'

      October 26, 2010 10:21

      South Korean delegates to inter-Korean talks have little negotiating skills and expertise because they are replaced more frequently than their North Korean counterparts, a lawmaker claims.

      Grand National Party Rep. Kim Hyo-jae of the National Assembly's Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee on Monday said he analyzed 249 rounds of inter-Korean talks for which it is possible to compare North and South out of 617 rounds since Aug. 20, 1971. This showed a total of 315 South Korean delegates so far, 95 more than the North's 220.

      In the six-party nuclear talks, which began in August 2003, South Korea has gone through four chief negotiators over 13 rounds -- Lee Soo-hyuk, Song Min-soon, Chun Young-woo and Kim Sook.

      But there has been only one replacement in the North, from then vice foreign minister Kim Yong-il to the incumbent Kim Kye-gwan. And Kim Kye-gwan attended all rounds of the six-party talks except the first as the chief negotiator, dealing with all four South Korean chief negotiators, and will be there again if the talks, suspended since December 2008, resume. The South Korean side will be represented by a fifth, Wi Sung-lac.

      Only three working-level South Korean officials have attended more than 10 rounds of the six-party talks, as contrasted with seven in the North.

      Kim Kye-gwan has been in a total of 24 rounds of talks involving South Korea, including the six-party talks and 12 rounds of the four-way talks that were held during the Clinton administration between 1997 and 1999 to discuss the question of turning the armistice into a peace agreement.

      But no South Korean officials have attended more than 20 rounds, and 212 officials have been in less than three of 249 rounds of the talks analyzed, compared to the North's 98.

      "Because the government sending delegates to talks out of consideration for their careers instead of their negotiation expertise, many delegates have turned out to be one-off participants," Kim said. "We have to be more sensible in selecting delegates so that they can acquire the necessary experience regardless of changes in government."

      But a Unification Ministry official protested against the analysis. "It's irrational to draw conclusions about our delegates' negotiation skills based only on attendance statistics. Although they're not included in official statistics, a lot of veteran officials and support staff with ample experience in dealing with North Korean officials are involved in preparations for inter-Korean talks."

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