The Unification Ministry on Thursday reiterated that the set of sanctions slapped on North Korea in 2010 over its deadly sinking of a South Korean warship had lost their effect and are no longer a “barrier” for inter-Korean cooperation.
“Through past administrations, a large part of the May 24 Measures has virtually lost effect,” an official said, echoing the ministry’s stance previous day. “The important aspect is that the government does not see those sanctions as a hindrance to our efforts for inter-Korean exchanges and to establish peace in the Korean Peninsula.”
On whether the remark indicates Seoul’s entire lifting of sanctions, the ministry official declined to comment.
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 naval vessel Cheonan, resulting in the death of 46 Navy sailors.
The measure cut almost all trade and investment, with the exception of those related to the now-defunct Kaesong industrial park and Kumgangsan tours. The measure also prohibits humanitarian aid without government permission.
The measures no longer hold in reality, as previous governments have been flexible and allowed exceptions. But those that overlap with US and UN sanctions are still in force, the ministry said.
In response to Seoul’s remark, the US said it supports inter-Korean cooperation.
“The United States supports inter-Korean cooperation and coordinates with our ROK ally to ensure inter-Korean cooperation proceeds in lockstep with progress on denuclearization,” an official at the State Department said, according to Voice of America.
Seoul has been voicing for boosting cross-border projects that could be a breakthrough for inter-Korean relations, with less dependency on halted denuclearization negotiations between the US and North Korea.
President Moon Jae-in has suggested quarantine cooperation amid coronavirus pandemic, as well as inter-Korean railway projects and individual tour to the North, but Pyongyang hasn’t responded to any of Seoul’s proposals since early this year.
By Ahn Sung-mi (firstname.lastname@example.org