Gov't Gears up for More Engagement with N.Korea

  • By Kim Jin-myung

    May 23, 2017 10:11

    Government officials are mulling the reopening of the cross-border Kaesong Industrial Complex, which was closed down after North Korean conducted a nuclear test back in 2016.

    Cheong Wa Dae officials are also talking about the possible resumption of package tours to North Korea's scenic Mt. Kumgang resort, which were halted in 2008 when a South Korean tourist was shot and killed by North Korean soldiers.

    The new government here is even considering resuming inter-Korean ceremonies to mark the historic June 15 Joint Declaration made back in 2000 by President Kim Dae-jung and then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il that started an uneasy thaw.

    President Moon Jae-in on Sunday appointed a special aide on diplomacy and security, Moon Chung-in, who has been a leading advocate of engagement with the North.

    Moon Chung-in told the Chosun Ilbo on Monday that the current sanctions triggered by the North's sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan in 2010 have become "null" and need to be eased.

    "The next problem we need to address is the North Korean nuclear weapons program, and it is important to keep the North from bolstering its missile technology," he added. "In order to do that, we need to reassure them by normalizing transactions and heading toward dialogue."

    The sanctions ban all inter-Korean trade and investment in the North. Moon said he plans to discuss with the president the resumption of tours to Mt. Kumgang and reopening of the Kaesong complex. 

    A flag for a reunified Korea is brought in during an inter-Korean festival in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang on June 17, 2007 (file photo).

    The government is also mulling the resumption of civilian exchanges with North Korea to mark the 17th anniversary of the historic June 15 summit this year.

    A ruling-party source said, "A civilian organization that honors the Joint Declaration plans a commemorative ceremony with North Korea, and the North proposed Pyongyang as the venue, while the South Koreans suggested Kaesong."

    "If Kaesong is chosen, businesspeople will be given permission to come along and inspect facilities in the industrial complex."

    Unification Ministry spokesman Lee Duk-haeng told reporters, "We plan to take a flexible look at all major issues involving North Korea as long as they do not violate the framework of international sanctions."

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