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Year 2015 hoped to open South-North Korean talks

Posted December. 30, 2014 05:46,   


The South Korean government made a proposal to North Korea to hold talks between the two authorities during next January under the name of Unification Preparatory Committee headed by President Park Geun-hye. Unification Minister Ryu Gil-jae, who serves as the vice chairman on the government side of Unification Preparatory Committee, explained the background of proposal on Dec. 28 saying, “The next year, which marks the 70th anniversary of independence from Japanese colonial rules and division into the two Koreas, will be a critical juncture that requires the North and South to make joint efforts to overcome the era of divided nation. Both Koreas must meet together and have talks over how to achieve peaceful unification.” If the North accepts the proposal, minister Ryu as the head of delegation and Jeong Jong-wook, vice chairman on the private side of the committee, will attend the meeting. The government aims to open a communication channel at higher level than the South-North Korea high-level official meeting in which Kim Kyu-hyun, first deputy director of Office of National Security, is the chief delegate.

It holds great significance to start the next year that marks the 70th anniversary of division with inter-Korean talks. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is expected to make new proposals to the South through his new year’s speech on Jan. 1, 2015. If the North Korean regime accepts the proposal from the South, President Park’s press conference for the New Year can be a venue to respond to the North. If the North Korean regime wants to pursue peace, it must not ignore this golden opportunity to hold the talks between the two Koreas.

Although the two Koreas claimed that both sides wanted to have talks, inter-Korean relations in 2014 recorded failing grade. Kim Jong Un said in 2014 New Year’s speech, “Atmosphere must be built up for improvement in relations between the North and the South,” but the relations has been aggravated. President Park also emphasized establishment of foundation for unification era, by saying “Unification is a jackpot.” However, it did not produce any fruitful results. No matter how great plans the Unification Preparatory Committee provides, if North Korea does not respond, it would become a hollow message. Both South and North must admit failures in 2014 and renew the commitment for fresh start.

North Korea sent a letter from Kim Jong Un to the South last week, expressing its willingness to improve the inter-Korean relations. If the South-North Korean talks are resumed, all the issues that the North mentioned such as tour program to Kumgang Mountain, resolute statement on May 24, and reunion of separated families, can be discussed. Regarding the North’s proposal to discuss “issues of the mutual interest for South and North Koreas,” the committee took a position that any pending issue related to the inter-Korean relations can be discussed as an agenda.

Passive attitude waiting for response from the North after suggesting talks cannot resolve the tangled inter-Korean relations. Even though behind-the-scene contacts, if necessary, the South Korean government needs to persuade North Korea that the inter-Korean talks can be beneficial to the North. North Korea has been showing hysterical responses against the Unification Preparatory Committee, criticizing it as "preparation for unification through absorption." If the North has lingering doubts over the committee, the South Korean government must exercise flexibility to resume the talks through high-ranking official talks.