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2 Koreas Engage in War of Nerves Over Detainee

Posted May. 16, 2009 21:21,   


South and North Korea are waging an intense war of nerves in setting the schedule and agenda for a second meeting after holding working-level talks Thursday.

The most contentious topic is whether to discuss a South Korean worker of Hyundai Asan Corp., who has been detained in the inter-Korean industrial complex in Kaesong by North Korean authorities for 47 days.

The South has demanded to discuss the release of the worker, but the North`s authority in charge of the complex says it can deal with monetary matters only, including wage hikes for North Korean workers in the complex.

Denying Pyongyang`s suggestions to hold a meeting May 6 and 12, Seoul strongly proposed talks on the worker`s release. After the North rejected the request, the South proposed yesterday to hold working-level talks Monday even if the North does not promise to discuss the issue.

But the North rejected the request again, calling it "unilateral."

North Korea has tried to speed up the convening of another meeting right after the first meeting April 21. When the South delayed its response to the request, the North sent a notice May 4 proposing to meet two days later.

The South rejected the offer, saying "We need time for preparation," and sent a notice to the North May 8, saying, "Let`s discuss pending issues on the Kaesong industrial complex at the inter-Korean economic cooperation office."

Seoul considered holding the meeting Tuesday but decided on yesterday, when President Lee Myung-bak returned from his Central Asian tour.

The North sent a reply May 9, saying, "Let`s meet sooner," suggesting talks Tuesday. "We are not in charge of the Hyundai Asan worker, and hence are in no position to discuss the issue," it added in repeating its earlier stance.

The North, however, did not object to the venue of the meeting, namely the inter-Korean economic cooperation office.

The South again sent a notice Monday saying, "Let`s hold the meeting Friday as suggested earlier, as we need time to gather opinions from companies operating in the Kaesong industrial complex," adding, "The worker`s release is a fundamental concern on the complex, and thus should be discussed without fail."

On Tuesday morning, the date when North Korea proposed to hold the meeting, three South Korean working-level officials visited the complex and discussed the timing and agenda of the planned meeting.

The North demanded in the afternoon that day that Moon Moo-hong, chairman of the South`s Kaesong industrial complex management committee, appear at the office of the North`s authority in charge of the complex.

Moon hurriedly went to the North but rejected going to the office, saying "I need time."

The North then said, "If you insist, we can unilaterally disclose our demands." Afterwards, the North rejected the South`s requests to meet Wednesday and Thursday.