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2001 inter-Korean exchanges will vary

Posted January. 09, 2001 14:30,   


Inter-Korean relations this year are expected to witness active dialogue, exchanges and cooperation, as South and North Korea are scheduled to have 19 talks and other contacts agreed on last year.

The South and the North had their first contact of the year through their liaison officers at Panmunjom on Monday for the South¡¯s delivery of a draft joint press release on the terms reached in the first meeting of the inter-Korean economic cooperation promotion committee at the end of December.

The two sides will conduct an analysis of the condition of North Korea power shortage after forming a joint committee this month and will hold the second meeting of the economic cooperation promotion panel and the technical working-level talks for the reconnection of the Kyongui Railroad Line in February.

The Korea National Red Cross also will embark on working-level business to prepare for the pilot project to confirm whether separated family members are alive or dead in February and to exchange messages in March.

The third inter-Korean Red Cross talks, suspended since last September, will resume in March.

The matter of primary concern in the timetable for various inter-Korean events is the scheduled reciprocal visit to Seoul by North Korean National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-Il. The Seoul government said, ¡°We will do our utmost to create an atmosphere conducive to chairman Kim¡¯s visit.¡±

The South Korean government¡¯s expression was interpreted as its strong will to realize the North Korean leader¡¯s coming to Seoul during the first half of the year.

On the contrary, inter-Korean exchanges at the private level have hit snags from the very start of the year.

The Pyongyang concert of singer Lee Mi-Ja scheduled for December was canceled, and the New Year concert scheduled to be held Wednesday in Moranbong Theater in Pyongyang also was put off.

¡°About 80 performers and spectators were about to enter Pyongyang via Beijing on Sunday, but the North postponed the concert without revealing a clear reason,¡± a Unification Ministry official said Tuesday.

The Mount Kumgang tour program, which Hyundai has launched in November 1998, faces the threat of being suspended because of snowballing deficits. Hyundai asked the North to lower its tourism commission and the South¡¯s government to allow the opening of a casino and duty-free shop in the North, but it is unclear whether the Hyundai requests will be accepted.

Ha Tae-Won scooop@donga.com