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Uri Party Delegation to North Announces Issues to Be Discussed Tomorrow

Uri Party Delegation to North Announces Issues to Be Discussed Tomorrow

Posted May. 01, 2007 03:04,   


The South-North Economic Exchange Cooperation Promotion Department (led by Kim Hyeok-gyu) under the Uri Party’s Northeast Asia Peace Committee announced its plans on April 30 to talk to Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People`s Assembly, in Pyongyang on May 2 over issues including the construction of a huge canal linking the city of Gaesong in the North and Seoul, along with other topics related to expanding bilateral economic exchanges.

Some of the issues topping the agenda are: the creation of joint peace areas and the picking up of aggregate at the mouth of Imjin River and Han River; the construction of a Haeju Bridge and highways from Pyongyang to Haeju; the establishment of a second Gaesong Industrial Complex and Haeju heavy industries complex; and participation by soccer and volleyball players from the North in South Korean professional leagues.

However, many hold a skeptical view, suspecting whether it is right and feasible for an Uri umbrella committee, not the ruling party or the government, to initiate such an initiative. Moreover, the issues coincide with the plan, “Economic Development Strategies for the Pan-Yellow Sea Region,” proposed by Kim Hyeok-gyu, a Uri Party presidential hopeful. This is why many people argue the meeting with the North was planned with the aim of ultimately empowering Kim.

The delegation will consist of five lawmakers: Kim Hyeok-gyu, Kim Jong-ryul, Lee Gwang-jae, Lee Hwa-yeong and five industry leaders, including Nam Gyeong-woo, head of the livestock department of Nonghyup and Kim Won-chang, CEO of the Korea Coal Corporation. They will stay in Pyongyang for four days starting on May 2 and meet North Korean officials including Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People`s Assembly, Kim Yong Dae, chairman of the Central Committee of the Korean Social Democratic Party, and Choi Seung Chol, vice commissioner of Chosun Asia Pacific Peace Committee. Lawmakers Kim Jong-ryul and Lee Gwang-jae are not Northeast Asia Peace Committee members, and the others in the delegation are pro-Roh lawmakers close to Kim Hyeok-gyu.

Kim Jong-ryul, one of the lawmakers in the delegation, said, “We’re trying to resolve issues the government may have difficulty addressing. Through discussions with related ministries such as the ministry of unification, we agreed on the need of the meeting and that it would materialize.” However, one government official argued against the remarks by saying, “We gave them some advice about visiting North Korea and other issues, but not more than that.” Indeed, the issues related to the maintenance of the highway between Pyongyang and Gaesong, and the construction of the highway linking Pyongyang and Haeju have been concluded unrealistic by the government, because of estimated building costs which amount to at least 1 trillion won.

In addition, the government has not even reviewed the issues related to the canal building. One government official said, “Gathering aggregates at the mouth of the Han River itself poses many difficulties because of opposition by the North’s military. Under these circumstances, talking about establishing a canal doesn’t make any sense.” Previously, Lee Hae-chan, the former prime minister, after his visit to Pyongyang in March, said issues related to POWs and abductees to the North will be resolved to a degree at the next Red Cross meeting, but the reality was the North did not even allow South Korean delegates to use those words during the meeting.

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