Go to contents

Suspicions of minister`s secret mission

Posted March. 16, 2001 13:42,   


Culture and Tourism Minister Kim Han-Gill, who returned from a trip to Pyongyang Wednesday, said he did not discuss any sensitive political issues with North Korean officials there, including North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il`s Seoul visit. Kim`s statement was not sufficient to end speculation about his ``special mission.``

The minister repeated that he did not meet with the North Korean strongman, nor did he talk about political subjects in his seven meetings with North Korean officials. Yet, most of the agreements he announced were already taken up at previous inter-Korean ministerial talks. This led many to suspect he had a covert assignment during his trip to North Korea.

The minister said his visit was aimed at promoting cultural exchange, but North Korea appeared to be unprepared. Thus, none of his reported accords with North Korea were put in writing. ``They were not ready for a written agreement and said they needed some time to consider overtures made by South Korea,`` Kim said.

Another notable aspect of his talks with North Korean officials was that his counterpart was Song Ho-Kyong, vice chairman of the Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, who was the chief architect of the first inter-Korean summit. Kwon Min, a councilor with the same committee, who represented North Korea in working-level talks during a Shanghai meeting of special envoys in March for the inter-Korean summit, was not included in the North Korean delegation to the fifth cabinet-level talks planned to take place here. Kwon participated in a number of inter-Korean negotiation sessions following the Pyongyang summit, making himself familiar to North Korea watchers here.

Government sources on Thursday denied that Minister Kim had any secret mission in North Korea, but observers continued to speculate about the real purpose of his journey.

Kim Young-Sik spear@donga.com