2 Koreas to Hold 1st High-Level Talks in 7 Years

North and South Korea on Tuesday agreed that senior officials from both sides will meet on Wednesday at the border truce village of Panmunjom.

Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do told reporters that North Korea made the offer in a message via a military channel to Cheong Wa Dae. "A final agreement was made on Tuesday afternoon," Kim said.

This marks the first high-level contact since the summit and defense ministers' talks in 2007.

Seoul and Pyongyang are expected to discuss a broad range of topics, including the reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, resumption of package tours to the North's Mt. Kumgang, and humanitarian assistance to North Korea.

Kim said there is "no set agenda" for the talks, but "comprehensive discussions" will take place on major issues.

Visitors look at a photo exhibition on the occasion of the Feb. 16, birthday of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang on Tuesday. /AP-Newsis Visitors look at a photo exhibition on the occasion of the Feb. 16, birthday of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang on Tuesday. /AP-Newsis

Representing the North will be Won Tong-yon, a senior official in the Workers Party's United Front Department and a veteran in relations with Seoul, and for the South there will be Kim Kyu-hyun, a senior Cheong Wa Dae official. Hong Yong-pyo, a senior presidential secretary, will also take part in the talks.

A government official said, "North Korea appears interested in regular talks between high-level officials." Another government source said, "Since there are many issues that need to be addressed, several meetings will be needed."

That could lead to the creation of a hotline linking the national security office at Cheong Wa Dae and the North Korean equivalent that reports directly to leader Kim Jong-un.

In her New Year's address, President Park Geun-hye said Korean reunification would be a "bonanza" for all of Northeast Asia, while Kim in his New Year's message called for an "atmosphere of improving inter-Korean relations."

The unexpectedly swift agreement to hold talks has raised speculation that Seoul and Pyongyang held secret talks beforehand. But Kim at the Unification Ministry denied this.

englishnews@chosun.com / Feb. 12, 2014 09:23 KST