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Red Cross talks yield another concession

Posted September. 25, 2000 15:36,   


"Although we had extended the talks one day, we decided to leave the talks as we could not narrow our differences. This round of talks did not meet our expectations."

Secretary General of the Korea National Red Cross Park Ki-Ryun, heading the Red Cross talks between South and North Korea, made the announcement about 5 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Kumgangsan Hotel pressroom. The South`s delegates began packing hurriedly, and the reporters followed suit.

The South`s delegates began bustling and packing at about 7 p.m. after having bid farewell to the North`s delegates. Then, having received an urgent directive from Seoul, the South`s delegates signed an agreement that accommodated much of the North`s request.

The South`s head delegate Park returned to the pressroom and stressed the success of the agreement.

"We do not feel the agreement is unsatisfactory,¡± Park said. ¡°We have to yield where we need to yield and postpone what needs to be postponed."

However, that spin might not be completely true. Many experts have analyzed that the current agreement is far from the much-touted completion of confirmation for surviving members of separated families, which resulted from the special meeting and talks between National Intelligence Service director Lim Dong-Won and the secretary of the North`s Labor Party Kim Young-Soon.

The only real achievement was that the two Koreas would implement a trial exchange of letters for 300 individuals from each side, and most of the others issues have been pushed back to the third round of talks to be held in December.

Such a concession and postponement position taken by the South reflects the eagerness in the South to avoid chilling the improvement of ties, which has been made recently. Even so, to have completely lost the purpose for which the talks were scheduled and to be dragged into an agreement to satisfy the North might in the end become a detriment in the long-term relationship between the two Koreas.

Also, the fact that the ship Kumgang already had departed the port even as the South`s delegation threatened the North that they would return to the South aboard the vessel, the meeting left a bitter aftertaste. Was the Southern delegation`s threat to leave nothing more than a tantrum?

Kim Young-Sik spear@donga.com