The Korea Herald


[Breaking] Inter-Korean talks to kick-off

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : Jan. 9, 2018 - 09:53

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The formal inter-Korean talks, a first in more than two years, will take place Tuesday for discussion on North’s participation in the PyeongChang Olympics and de-freezing bilateral ties. 

The meeting will kick-off at 10 a.m. in the border village of Panmunjeom, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said. The South Korean delegation arrived at the Peace House inside the truce village at 8:46 a.m.

The North Korean delegation crossed the military demarcation line, the de facto border between the Koreas, at 9:30 a.m.

The talks were arranged after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made a rare overture toward South Korea in his New Year’s address. Kim said he was willing to dispatch a delegation to the Winter Games and said both sides could “urgently meet” to discuss the matter. 

Cho Myoung-gyon and Ri Son-gwon (Yonhap) Cho Myoung-gyon and Ri Son-gwon (Yonhap)

“We will make efforts to make the PyeongChang Games and the Paralympics a ‘peace festival’ and help it serve as the first step toward an improvement in inter-Korean ties,” Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, the chief delegate, told reporters before departure. “To meet people’s expectations, we will not be in a hurry and hold the talks in a calm manner.

Cho is to lead Seoul’s five-member delegation for the talks. His counterpart is Ri Son-gwon, the chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, North Korea’s state agency handling inter-Korean affairs.

The South Korean delegation crossed the Unification Bridge over the Imjin River at 8:32 a.m. They were greeted by a group of 20 men who ran factories and businesses at the now-shuttered joint industrial complex, holding a banner wishing for successful talks.

The industrial zone in the border town of Kaesong was shuttered in February 2016 on suspicions its profits were funding North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Although the talks are forecast to focus mainly on the Winter Olympics, Seoul has said it will also raise the issue of alleviating tensions on the Korean Peninsula and reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. North Korea has remained mum toward Seoul’s offer of holding military talks and a separate Red Cross meeting to discuss the reunion of divided families.

The meeting comes as North Korea waved an olive branch after it launched a series of intercontinental ballistic missiles and made its sixth and largest nuclear test last year.

South Korea’s liberal Moon administration has been hoping that a revival of dialogue with the North will help de-escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula and eventually lead to denuclearization.

By Jung Min-kyung & Joint Press Corps (