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Kim Dae-jung Train Trip Looks Unlikely

Posted May. 18, 2006 03:00,   


It is unlikely for former President Kim Dae-jung to take a Gyeongeui line train to North Korea.

According to the Ministry of Unification (MOU), a working-level meeting between the two Koreas took place in Mt. Geumgang to accommodate Kim’s visit to the North yesterday. At the meeting, the South suggested to the North a measure in which Kim Dae-jung will visit Pyongyang on a Gyeongeui line train, but the North proposed that Kim use a direct route along the West Sea.

The two Koreas decided to continue discussing the possibility of Kim’s visit to North Korea by train, the visiting date, and the size of the South’s delegation at a working-level meeting in Gaesong at the end of this month.

North Korea was reluctant to agree to train trip by Kim because of the difficulties to guarantee military security.

After finishing the working-level meeting, when asked about why North Korea objected to Kim Dae-jung’s visit to North by train, former Unification Minister Chung Se-hyun, head of the delegation at the meeting, answered reporters at a Customs Immigration Quarantine (CIQ) office and said that the two Koreas did not have any agreement on the military security measures yet.

At the fourth round of the inter-Korean general-level military talks, being held from May 16 to May 18, North Korea’s military authority is also showing a negative attitude, requesting the South to discuss the military guarantee for the pilot operation of the Gyeongeui and Donghae lines on May 25 at a working-level meeting, not at a general-level talks.

Under the circumstance, it appears that the North will demand pay-offs in some forms in return for the military guarantee to use as a rationale to persuade its military authority.

The government predicts that North Korea is likely to demand light industry raw materials citing the military guarantee matter for Kim’s train visit to North Korea, as well as a pilot train operation, at the working-level meeting of South-North economic cooperation committee to be held on May 18 to 19 in the North’s border city of Gaesong.

In addition, there is some speculation within the government that the North’ military, which is feeling stress even at the pilot train operation from Munsan station to Gaesong station, is strongly opposed to the operation of the train to Pyongyang.

Meanwhile, the South and North agreed to set the timetable of Kim Dae-jung’ visit to the North at the end of June for three nights and four days at the current meeting.

Regarding the failure to clearly set the visiting date, former Unification Minister Chung explained that the two sides didn’t even decide the transportation means, whether it be train or plane, and so the date related to that.

It was also released that the South initially suggested sending 80 people to North Korea including Kim Dae-jung’s aides, medical staffs, government officials, and reporters, but the North requested the number be reduced.

Myoung-Gun Lee gun43@donga.com