The South Korean government has allowed the country's lexicographers to meet with their North Korean colleagues in China this week for a project to publish a joint dictionary of their language, officials here said Monday.
A group of 32 South Korean lexicographers will hold a meeting with their northern counterparts in the Chinese city of Xinyang from Tuesday through Aug. 6, said the unification ministry.
The two sides plan to discuss a schedule for making what is called the Big Dictionary of the Korean People's Language, and review its content, it said.
"The government has continually allowed purely social and cultural exchanges (with North Korea) in the non-political sector," the ministry's deputy spokeswoman Park Soo-jin said at a press briefing.
Seoul decided to approve the meeting plan in consideration of the significance of the joint dictionary project in preserving Korea's cultural asset and bridging the language gap between the two Koreas, she added.
Under South Korea's national security law, any plans by its citizens to contact or visit North Korea should be notified to and pre-approved by the Seoul government.
The two Koreas launched the dictionary program in 2005, but it has seen frequent interruptions due to tensions on the peninsula caused by the North's repeated provocations.
Officially, both sides speak the same Korean language, but the gap between their daily used words has grown over the past decades not only because of difference in local dialects but also due to an influx of foreign languages into the South. The North, on the other hand, has remained largely isolated and maintained the use of so-called "pure" Korean words.
For instance, South Koreans use the word "goalkeeper" in football, whereas North Koreans say "munjigi," a pure Korean word that literally means "gatekeeper." (Yonhap)