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Panel denies president’s suggestion of N.K. upheavals

A presidential panel for Korean unification Tuesday denied a recent report that President Park Geun-hye had suggested a possible unification of the two Koreas next year by indicating a sign of sudden changes in North Korea.

"The president that day was requesting the panel to be better prepared for the unification because no one can predict when it could actually happen,” said the presidential committee for unification preparation in a statement.

“She was neither commenting nor suggesting a sign of sudden changes in North Korea.” 

Locals push their bicycles past a large painting depicting North Korean leaders Kim Il-sung (left) and Kim Jong-il in Wonsan, North Korea, Monday. (AP-Yonhap)
Locals push their bicycles past a large painting depicting North Korean leaders Kim Il-sung (left) and Kim Jong-il in Wonsan, North Korea, Monday. (AP-Yonhap)


The panel’s position was released after local reports that Park had acknowledged a growing number of influential figures in North Korea seeking asylum in South Korea. Park’s comment on North Korean high-ranking officials seeking exile was comprehended by many participants at the meeting as sudden changes in the reclusive regime being imminent, according to the Hankyoreh, a local daily.

At the meeting with civilian members of the unification panel last month, the president also reportedly said that the two Koreas can be unified in “a few days or in a few months,” judging from Germany’s unification process. “Unification of two Koreas could also happen next year, so you all have to be well prepared,” Park was quoted as saying by the reports.

Cheong Wa Dae said Tuesday that the office could not release Park’s remarks because they were delivered at a closed-door meeting.

The top office remained mum to reporters’ questions, but turned the attention to the panel’s statement. “We know that the panel has released a statement to clarify facts about the news reports,” said an official.

In the statement, the panel also stressed that the government is pursuing an improvement on the inter-Korean relationship through dialogue and cooperation based on mutual trust.

“The principle of building foundation for peaceful unification through dialogue and cooperation remains unchanged,” it said.

Last year, Park launched the 50-member committee to draw up a unification blueprint and build public consensus. It includes 30 civilian members in order to take into account a wide range of public opinion and ensure transparency.

The panel came under fire earlier this year over a remark made by its vice chairman Chung Chong-wook. Chung said at a forum that the Seoul government has been preparing for unification through various scenarios including absorbing the North.

Both Cheong Wa Dae and the panel refuted the reports on Chung’s remark, claiming it was misinterpreted.

By Cho Chung-un (christory@heraldcorp.com)

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