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Unification minister to visit Panmunjom this week


Unification Minister Lee In-young will visit the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom this week to take a look at the area for the first time since he took office in July, officials said Tuesday.

During the visit set for Wednesday, Lee will tour major facilities at Panmunjom, including the South Korea-controlled Freedom House and Peace House, and encourage staff there, a ministry official said Tuesday.

Lee plans to hold a brief press conference at the truce village where South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un planted a pine tree to mark their historic talks at Panmunjom in April 2018.

"In September, there were agreements made between the two Koreas, such as the Sept. 19 Joint Pyongyang Declaration and the military agreement," the official said, referring to the summit agreement that President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed at their third meeting held in Pyongyang in 2018.

On the sidelines of the summit, the two sides also signed a military tension deal.

"I think it is meaningful for the minister to hold a press conference at the place where the two leaders planted a tree," the official said amid speculation that Lee may send a message to the North ahead of the second anniversary of the Joint Pyongyang Declaration.

Lee is also expected to visit the conference building of the Military Armistice Commission and a footbridge in the Joint Security Area that became famous after Moon and Kim took a stroll across it during their first summit in 2018.

He is also likely to check the overall progress in efforts to resume the suspended tour programs to Panmunjom along the inter-Korean border.

Tours to Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which take visitors to the southern side of Panmunjom, were suspended in October last year, when the highly contagious African swine fever was reported near the border with North Korea.

The ministry postponed the resumption of the tour program earlier this year amid concerns over the new coronavirus. (Yonhap)