Is an Inter-Korean Summit in the Offing?

      January 05, 2010 12:51

      An inter-Korean summit could be held in the first half of this year, said a key official in the ruling camp on Monday, the same day President Lee Myung-bak called for "a new turning point between the South and the North" in his New Year's address.  

      The official did not give details, but he recalled several meetings between two Koreas, which indicates that some kind of inter-Korean dialogue channel is working.

      Labor Minister Yim Tae-hee met Kim Yang-gon, the director of North Korea's United Front Department, in Singapore in October and a senior Unification Ministry official met his North Korean counterpart in the border city of Kaesong in November. The ministry is said to have been involved all the way.

      Since a North Korean delegation came to the funeral of former president Kim Dae-jung and met President Lee Myung-bak in August last year, the two Koreas have exchanged views on the agenda and conditions of a summit, one government official said. "Once the heads of state of both sides make up their minds, a summit could be held."

      There have been reports that Seoul has demanded that the agenda includes written promises of giving up the North's nuclear weapons and concrete measures for the repatriation of South Korean prisoners of war and citizens abducted to the North. Pyongyang in turn has demanded huge economic aid and benefits from international banks.

      What matters to the government now is how to proceed. One question is whether to hold a summit after issues like the package tours to Mt. Kumgang and the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex have been resolved through high-level officials' meetings, or whether to accelerate their resolution by holding a summit first.

      The government apparently considered holding inter-Korean minister-level talks in early September last year. The meeting was aborted, however, when six South Koreans drowned when the North discharged water form the Hwang River Dam unannounced. In a normal situation, senior officials would meet before a summit. But given all the variables in the inter-Korean relations, a summit could come first.

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