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Ri Sun Kwon attends groundbreaking ceremony for railway project

Ri Sun Kwon attends groundbreaking ceremony for railway project

Posted December. 27, 2018 07:47,   

Updated December. 27, 2018 07:47


North Korea's unification committee chief Ri Sun Kwon attended the inter-Korean railway groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday. He was at the center of controversy caused by his remarks at the luncheon on the occasion of the inter-Korean summit talk held in September. Since his cold noodle utterance – "Does the cold noodle pass to the throat now?" – caused controversy, it was the first inter-Korean official event since then. Different from being a voluble speaker, he kept silent only with few words during the event.

Ri said at a welcoming event before the groundbreaking ceremony, “Time has flown this year. We had high-ranking level talks and the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.” He said that connecting railways and roads between the two Koreas is meaningful as they cooperate, asking participants in the event to support such efforts based on their friendship, according to South Korean Unification Ministry spokesperson Baek Tae-hyun.

Ri looked calm with his compressed lips in black coat while standing for commemorative photo shooting. Asked what he did think of the groundbreaking ceremony, he simply answered, “I feel deeply emotional.” When asked when he did think actual works start on the ground, the North Korean official said, “We will have discussions with the South.” As many more questions started being raised, North Korean guides hurriedly took action.

"Ri and I will not make an official speech," South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said before leaving for Kaesong at Seoul Station, describing himself and his North Korean counterpart as topping to decorate the event. It is rare that Cho mentioned in person that Ri would not remark. It has been analyzed that Seoul and Pyongyang agreed to prevent further controversy over Ri’s cold noodles remarks and make sure Cho and Ri could join high-ranking talks next year.

In-Chan Hwang hic@donga.com