Published : 2013-08-21 20:45
Updated : 2013-08-21 20:45
South and North Korea have exchanged a flurry of proposals and counterproposals for dialogue since they agreed last week to reopen a joint industrial complex that has been shut down for months.
In the latest move, the South proposed holding talks on the possible resumption of tours to Mount Geumgang in the North in late September after reunions for separated families are realized. The proposal came in response to Pyongyang’s earlier request that consultations on resuming the tour project suspended in 2008 should precede talks on family reunions, which Seoul offered to hold Friday at the truce village of Panmunjeom.
The South made the offer a day after President Park Geun-hye proposed in her speech last Thursday that the two Koreas hold reunions for families separated since the 1950-53 Korean War and establish a peace park in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the peninsula. Government sources say Seoul is considering proposing another meeting with Pyongyang to discuss the DMZ park plan next month.
Pyongyang’s propaganda machine has recently refrained from dampening the atmosphere for carrying on dialogue with Seoul. In a departure from its past stance, North Korea remained silent as South Korea and the U.S. launched joint military exercises Monday.
A statement issued Tuesday by a committee in charge of cross-border affairs criticized President Park for her remarks made during Monday’s security meeting that cautioned against letting the country’s guard down over its possible return to provocative acts. But it still stopped short of calling Park by name, addressing her as “the South Korean chief executive.”
As noted by some observers here, the criticism seems a “one-off reaction to save face.” It might also reflect its dissatisfaction with Seoul’s cautiousness in replying to its proposal for talks on Mount Geumgang tours.
What is worrying for Seoul is the possibility that the current flow of dialogue might take it to a situation where the North would not go further to settle fundamental issues such as its nuclear disarmament after securing practical economic interests from deals on the joint factory park and the tour project. It may be desirable for Seoul to set up a ministerial-level consultative framework with Pyongyang to coordinate the pace and scope of inter-Korean programs instead of continuing with the ping-pong style of talks.