Updated : May.17.2005 06:32 KST

[Editorial] Intra-Korean Talks After 10 Months


Vice-ministerial talks between North and South Korea have begun in Gaeseong. Intra-Korean talks have been stalled since last July because of the South's decision not to allow a visit on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the death of North Korea's president Kim Il Sung and because of the arrival of a massive number of defectors. It is symbolic that the talks are opening in Gaeseong [Kaesong], where the industrial complex project jointly pursued by North and South has been going well recently.

The talks are also significant in that they become the point of departure for intra-Korean dialogue for the second half of Roh Moo Hyun's government. We hope to see the last 10 months be like the fertilizer for a new leap forward, just like as in the expression "buds sprout after rain," and next month will be the sixth anniversary of the historical intra-Korean summit. The North appears to have proposed this meeting because it has an urgent need for fertilizer aid and to lessen the pressure by neighboring nations regarding the nuclear issue. The South, for its part, needs to concentrate on growing a larger framework for progress in intra-Korean relations, rather than challenging the North on its motives for talks. For example, once the South has decided to provide fertilizer for humanitarian reasons, no other conditions should be made.

People will be watching these talks so see whether they are a stop on the way back to the six-party talks. While they are formally a different venue, in terms of content they are closely related. The fact that government-to-government contact stopped immediately after the last round of six-party talks ended in June of last year reflects that. The South's delegation needs to persuade the North of the fact that progress in the intra-Korean relationship will inevitably be held back unless the nuclear issue is resolved, and that progress in the relationship will make resolving the nuclear issue easier. Of course the South should not pressure the North unreasonably about participating in the six-party talks and by doing so harm the immediate intra-Korean dialogue.

Government-to-government talks take on the character of a part of the long process of reunification. That is why there needs to be persistent work with a long-term perspective, and to avoid getting upset over smaller forms of discord and differences of opinion.

The Hankyoreh, 17 May 2005.

[Translations by Seoul Selection (EIP)]



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