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`Inter-Korean Summit Must Handle POWs, Kidnap Victims`

Posted February. 19, 2010 08:21,   


Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said yesterday that inter-Korean summits must deal with repatriating South Korean POWs and kidnapping victims being held in North Korea.

“Humanitarian issues including North Korea’s nuclear program and repatriation of POWs and kidnapped South Koreans should be resolved at future inter-Korean summits. Even if POWS and the kidnapping victims are repatriated to South Korea, Seoul will never take advantage of this for political purposes,” he said in an interview with The Dong-A Ilbo.

“The era of the two Koreas promoting their own political systems is over. Certainly, South Korean society has matured significantly. Accordingly, the government can get no support from the people by propagandizing its own political system. It doesn’t need to resort to propagandizing and can expect no benefit.”

Hyun urged Pyongyang to make a forward-looking decision, pushing for a change in North Korea’s lukewarm attitude toward dealing with POWs and kidnapping victims at an inter-Korean summit.

“The issues should be dealt with from a humanitarian perspective. If they’re handled in a humanitarian manner, this could help the two Koreas efficiently deal with the humanitarian issues they face. That means it will also benefit North Korea,” he said.

In short, Hyun implied that South Korea could discuss large-scale economic aid after dealing with the issues.

“The best measure is for all POWs and kidnapped South Koreans to be repatriated, but this might be impossible under certain circumstances,” he said. This could mean Seoul could accept Pyongyang’s suggestion to allow POWs and kidnapped South Koreans to visit their hometowns instead of repatriation.

Hyun rejected the North’s demand for economic aid, however, including food and fertilizer in exchange for forestation projects in North Korea.

“Our government is pushing for forestation projects in North Korea since it believes that they are good for the future of the Korean Peninsula and Koreans. We cannot allow conditions to be attached,” he said.

“The projects should be handled by the Unification Ministry, which is in charge of inter-Korean relations, and the Green Growth Council, not by the Social Integration Council, which deals with domestic issues.”

kyle@donga.com zeitung@donga.com