NATIONAL

Park proposes joint inter-Korean exchange office

By 김영원
  • Published : Nov 5, 2015 - 20:01
  • Updated : Nov 5, 2015 - 20:01

President Park Geun-hye on Thursday proposed to establish a joint office with North Korea to handle inter-Korean exchanges, as a follow-up measure of a landmark deal reached with Pyongyang in August.

“While the fields of civil exchanges between the two Koreas are spreading from history, culture and sports to forestry, pest control and others, there needs to be support on the government level for such a trend to expand even further,” said Park during a meeting with the members of presidential preparation committee for unification.
 
President Park Geun-hye speaks at a meeting with the members of presidential preparation committee for unification held at the Blue House in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)

“Through (the office), I hope to expand the range of cooperation on sectors such as welfare, health, disaster management, security and underground resources that will benefit both Koreas.”

Park’s remarks were delivered at the meeting where officials and experts suggested revitalizing North Korea’s domestic market by expanding inter-Korean economic cooperation in order to induce Pyongyang toward openness. The idea demonstrated the views by the government and experts that it would be more realistic to push North Korea to open its doors by reviving its domestic market rather than waiting for the collapse of the Kim Jong-un regime.

The president also urged North Korea to step forward and keep its promise of holding a dialogue with the South.

“As agreed on the Aug. 25 (high-level) inter-Korean talks, I expect to start a discussion on mutual interests of the South and the North and for the future of the Korean Peninsula,” she said.

In an Aug. 25 agreement that ended a military standoff, the two Koreas agreed to hold government-level talks in Pyongyang or Seoul at an early date to improve inter-Korean ties. There has been some progress on the civil level with the two Koreas resuming the reunion of separated families last month. Despite Seoul’s repeated calls, Pyongyang has remained silent on holding the high-level follow-up talks.

Park raising her voice on inter-Korean exchanges and dialogue was expected to bring the focus on the matters of resuming aid to Pyongyang and lifting financial sanctions. The Seoul government slapped the sanctions on the North on May 24, 2010, in the wake of its torpedoing of a South Korean warship. The measure prohibits all inter-Korean economic activities, except for the Gaeseong Industrial Complex.

Reiterating her firm position on publishing state-controlled history textbooks, Park also said the goal of achieving the peaceful unification of the two Koreas would be difficult unless solid historic values were set.

Park stressed that her mission to instill a sense of pride and to set a correct view of history for future generations is the first step toward unifying the two Koreas, which has been divided for more than 60 years following the 1950-53 Korean War.

“If these missions are not taken (in advance), it would be hard to achieve unification. And even if we achieve unification, our spirit would go through massive chaos and lose balance, creating a fatuitous situation that we become dominated by (left-leaning) ideology.”

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