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Koreas agree on ministerial meeting in Seoul

June 9, 2013 - 10:35 By KH디지털3


South Korean delegations are having a meeting before heading to the truce village of Panmunjom on Sunday. (Yonhap News)

South and North Korea agreed to hold a ministerial meeting in Seoul next week at their first government-level contact in more than two years, seeking to build mutual trust and ease uncertainties on the Korean Peninsula.

In the morning session of the government-level talks held at Freedom House on the South Korean side of the joint security area of Panmunjom, the two sides exchanged views on the protocol, location, agenda and size of the delegation to attend Wednesday's ministerial meeting in Seoul, the Ministry of Unification said.

"The two sides shared the understanding in regards to the ministers' meeting," said ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk, stressing that both Seoul and Pyongyang effectively want the meeting of senior policymakers to take place.

Seoul will be represented by Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae as chief negotiator, with authorities here asking the North to send Kim Yang-gon, the head of the United Front Department of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea as its top negotiator.

The spokesman also said that discussions took place in a calm manner and without any particular contentious issues surfacing.

He declined to elaborate on the details since negotiations are pending but pledged to be forthcoming with information once an agreement is reached. The morning talks that took place with all delegates present started at 10:13 a.m. and were concluded a little after 11 a.m.

The ministry in charge of conducting negotiations with the North then said that talks between leading delegates at Panmunjom resumed at around 2 p.m. and lasted an hour after Seoul and Pyongyang reviewed the issues raised by the other side.

"Chun Hae-sung, who is leading the three-person South Korean delegation held one-on-one talks with Kim Song-hye, the senior official representing the North for about an hour," the ministry said. Chun heads the unification ministry's policy bureau while Kim is an official for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) with extensive experience in dealing with the South.

A ministry source, who did not want to be identified, said that working-level talks should be completed within the day and hinted some understandings have already been reached.

The working-level meeting came after the North's CPRK called for working-level talks Friday following its earlier proposal to hold government-level talks to resolve issues such as the Kaesong Industrial Complex, Mount Kumgang tours and reunions of families separated by the Korean War (1950-53).

Seoul has accepted the government-to-government talks and countered by asking for a ministerial-level meeting so all key issues can be discussed by responsible officials.

The communist country had, moreover, called for the joint hosting of celebratory events to mark the 13th anniversary of the June 15 South-North Joint Declaration and the 1972 July 4th North-South Joint Statement. The two statements are considered to be key documents that have helped lay the foundation for inter-Korean talks.

Chun, meanwhile, told reporters before leaving for the talks earlier in the day that every effort will be made to build trust that can lay the foundation for improving South-North relations.

"There is a need to build trust from small issues and the South's goal is to keep faithful to the principle of the 'trust building' process for the Korean Peninsula," the head of the policy setting office at the unification ministry said. The trust-building process is the main policy goal of South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

He said that the Panmunjom talks aim to lay the successful groundwork for the ministerial-level talks. The official said

administrative and technical matters will be discussed.

Related to the talks, the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae said it is carefully monitoring developments at Panmunjom and said it will maintain a cautious wait-and-see approach. It said all senior aides have reported to work to keep tabs on the talks. (Yonhap News)