February 08, 2010 07:36
President Lee Myung-bak "of course" has a communication channel with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, government officials told the Chosun Ilbo on Sunday.
Asked how long it takes for a message from Lee to reach Kim, one official said 24 hours and another said if the message is sent in the morning, it reaches the other side in the afternoon the same day.
But none would elaborate exactly how such messages are delivered.
One senior official who has been in charge of North Korean affairs under previous governments suggested that the 24-hour delivery means there is an intermediary.
In other words, there is no direct hotline. "The intermediary must be a person whom both Seoul and Pyongyang trust. This person must be working as a go-between between the two sides based either in China or in Japan, which is the way South Korean businesses normally do business with the North," the official said.
But he said under past governments there used to be far more direct communication between the two sides.
The remarks taken together suggest either the National Intelligence Service or a secret presidential team plays the role of maintaining communication with the North through Beijing. It is also possible that messages are passed on by Chinese whispers through a chain of people.
"It would take too much time to exchange personal letters officially, and they would leave a trail of evidence," the official said. He added, "It seems that the North has sent more messages to us than we've sent them."
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