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South-North Talks Provide Few Answers

Posted April. 25, 2006 05:18,   


At the 18th inter-Korean ministerial talks, which were closed yesterday, South Korea took up a position that it would offer economic support to North Korea in compensation for the return of South Koreans abducted by the North and prisoners of the Korean War. North Korea, however, didn’t accept this, and the talks ended without compromise in regard to the return of South Koreans in the North and failed to include this issue in a joint press release.

But the two sides agreed to further examine other proposals offered by South Korea, such as resource sharing in the mouth area of the Han River and the designation of Danchon of South Hamgyong Province, North Korea, as a joint resources development zone for the two Koreas.

More study needed-

While South Korea urged that the joint press statement should include a precise plan for joint activities for the return of prisoners and abducted South Koreas, North Korea simply said that “we need to study more on this.” Meanwhile, South Korea promised economic support in return for North Korea’s acceptance at the talks.

In regard to this, experts view that since the North has argued that the prisoners and abducted South Koreas moved into the North because they liked North Korea’s system, it would be very hard for the North to change its position to accept South Korea’s offer suddenly.

In addition to economic support, South Korea offered the return of unconverted long-term prisoners to the North. However, it was not enough to persuade North Korea to accept the deal.

As a result, the two sides just agreed to include the sentence: “South and North Korea will work together to produce practical solutions for people who have been missing since the Korean War” in a joint press statement. People who have been missing in the statement means prisoners of the war and South Koreans abducted to the North.

In the seventh Red Cross talks held in February this year, the two sides just agreed to work together to confirm if people who have been missing since the Korean War are still alive. In this respect, inter-Korea ministerial talks made some progress from February.

The goal of the talks was limited to the confirmation of their life and death at the Red Cross talks, however the two counterparts succeeded in including their reunion and return to the South at the ministerial talks this time.

But since this progress didn’t entail practical action plans, it is still up in the air whether South Korea can tackle the problems of the POWs by offering economic support to the North as planned.

Resource sharing-

In addition to this, the two sides agreed in a joint press statement to hold the 12th Economic Cooperation Council in May in which they will examine the feasibility of a proposed joint resource development plan and resource sharing plan in the mouth area of the Han River.

In terms of the resources sharing plan in the mouth area of the Han River, the North has given a green light. But in regard to the designation of Danchon of South Hamgyong Province as a joint resource development zone, the North partly agreed on the condition that the specific regions are not designated yet by saying, “We need to have more talks with relevant authorities.”

500,000 tons of rice, 300,000 tons of fertilizer-

The two sides also agreed to hold the 19th inter-Korea ministerial talks from July 11 to 14 in Busan. This is the first time that the ministerial talks will be held in Busan.

Meanwhile, North Korea asked South Korea for 500,000 tons of rice and 300,000 tons of fertilizer during the talks. A source from the talks said, “Even though 500,000 tons of rice is the amount that we used to offer to the North, we can’t decide if we can offer that or not this time.”

South Korea offered 150,000 tons of fertilizer to the North in spring of this year, and North Korea has asked the South to offer an additional 300,000 tons since February.

Myoung-Gun Lee gun43@donga.com