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[Inter-Korean Talks] North reluctant; South impatient

Posted October. 02, 2000 12:28,   


Wrapping up the third round of inter-Korean ministerial talks Saturday, South and North Korea issued a six-point joint press release, calling for the establishment of a South-North economic cooperation committee, measures for speeding up the conformation of the whereabouts of long-separated families between the Koreas and the consideration of reviving Seoul-Pyongyang soccer matches.

South Korean delegate Kim Sun-Kyu, vice culture-tourism minister, said that the two sides had agreed to implement the tasks set forth at various levels of bilateral talks without any hitch, and that they continue to discuss projects that should be carried out in the future. However, it was pointed out that the ministerial talks failed to agree on new practical tasks and to supplement the unattended problems left by the previous second round of the Red Cross talks.

In particular, the Seoul side intended to substantiate the inter-Korean relations by setting the tempo in the pending talks, but the Pyongyang side came up with a passive stance, apparently because of its limited discretionary power. Consequently, the two sides gave the impression that the ministerial talks rather marked a retreat from the preceding talks between North Korean special envoy Kim Yong-Sun and Lim Dong-Won, director general of the National Intelligence Service.

The government, announcing a measure to provide the North with 500,000 tons of grains, called upon Pyongyang to resolve pending issues such as family reunions, but the ministerial talks produced few results. Because the North side refused to give a clear-cut answer to the South's request for the transparent distribution of the new food supply, Seoul will have to deliver food aid starting Oct. 5 with only verbal commitment from Pyongyang.

The South side had attempted to specify in the joint press release the mutual agreements on confirmation of the whereabouts of the displaced relatives, the expanded exchanges of letters and other issues, but the North showed rather cool response to the Seoul propositions. Accordingly, the statement fell short of expectation by announcing vague expressions such as "cooperation" and the "promotion of discussions."

The descriptions of the contents of the press statements differed somewhat between the South and North. With regard to the proposed settlement of the separated family issue, the South¡¯s press statement stipulated that the measures would be taken for the location of the lost families and that the mutual correspondence from the final days of this year, yet the North's release carried the expression of "shortly."

The South's statement said that the two sides will discuss and promote the establishment of an inter-Korean economic cooperation committee, whereas the North's stipulated that the two will study and implement the setup of the South-North joint economic cooperation committee, respectively.