S.Koreans Bank on Thaw Despite Stalemate in U.S.-N.Korea Talks

  • By Lee Yong-soo

    July 16, 2018 13:03

    More than 500 civilian applications have been filed with the Unification Ministry for visits to North Korea since the Moon Jae-in administration was inaugurated.

    "A total of 507 civilian applications, 193 last year and 314 this year, have been filed with the government for visits to the North," Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun told reporters last Friday.

    That suggests South Koreans have had high hopes for inter-Korean exchanges as cross-border ties thaw, even though denuclearization talks between North Korea and the U.S. seem to have stalled.

    The ministry has approved many of the applications, raising fears that the visits will weaken concerted international sanctions against the North.

    "Powerful and unwavering sanctions are essential to achieve denuclearization in the North, but lively inter-Korean exchanges would loosen the sanctions," a diplomatic source said.

    Seoul officially views a resumption of cross-border economic cooperation as premature, but encourages non-economic, civilian exchanges. With that, a travel ban to the North, imposed on May 24, 2010 in the wake of the North's sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan, has effectively been lifted.

    Also on Friday, North Korean propaganda website Uriminzokkiri urged Seoul to be more proactive in cross-border economic cooperation.

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