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‘Government looking into ending May 24 measures on NK’: Foreign Minister Kang

Foreign Ministry later denies any active review under way

The Korean government is considering lifting the May 24 measures against North Korea, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said Wednesday.

Speaking at the parliamentary audit by the diplomatic and unification committee of the National Assembly, Kang also said that tours to North Korea are banned for South Koreans not by international sanctions, but by measures enforced by Seoul. 

Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha speaks at the parliamentary audit in Seoul on Wednesday. Yonhap
Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha speaks at the parliamentary audit in Seoul on Wednesday. Yonhap

In response to Democratic Party of Korea chief Rep. Lee Hae-chan’s question on whether the government is open to lifting the May 24 measures, Kang said her ministry is discussing the matter with related ministries.

The May 24 measures were imposed in 2010 by the Lee Myung-bak administration in response to the North’s attack on the South Korean warship Cheonan that resulted in the death of 46 Navy sailors.

The measure prohibits all cross-border trade with the exception of that related to the Kaesong industrial park and Mt. Kumgang tours. The measure also prohibits humanitarian aid without government permission. North Korean ships are prohibited from entering South Korean waters and investing in the North was banned. 

The Foreign Ministry later said that Kang had meant that the measures should be reviewed within the framework of international sanctions as denuclearization talks are underway, and that there is no active review underway. 

Kang also said that tourism to North Korea does not in itself violate international sanctions, adding that funds flowing into North Korea in connection to tourism is prohibited.

According to Kang, individual tourist’s spending in North Korea does not violate international sanctions.

In her opening remarks, Kang emphasized Seoul’s role as a link between Pyongyang and Washington, and that China, Japan and Russia have important roles in establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula.

“On the foundation of close South Korea-US cooperation, the government will proactively carry out the role of a bridge for North Korea and the US (for finding common ground),” she said, adding that she expects working-level talks for the second US-North Korea summit to begin in the near future.

By Choi He-suk (