South Korea’s unification minister expressed optimism on thawing inter-Korean ties Tuesday, as the nuclear envoys of the two Koreas were set to hold more talks over resuming regional denuclearization talks.
Yu Woo-ik, inaugurated as Seoul’s new unification minister on Monday, said his government “believes North Korea will respond” to Seoul’s effort in mending ties.
“We will keep to the basic principles, but seek flexibility in humanitarian and non-political inter-Korean issues,” Yu told a parliamentary session Tuesday.
“For such effort to make actual progress in improving ties, North Korea has to take responsible measures on the nuclear disarmament issue and lingering issues related to its provocations last year,” he said.
The nomination of Yu came as regional powers have been moving to resume the six-nation denuclearization talks which have been stalled since the end of 2008.
Improved relations between the Koreas will play a key role in propelling the process, as Seoul continues to hold hard feelings against Pyongyang for its two deadly attacks last year.
Their ties have stayed poor since last November, when North Korea bombarded a northwestern South Korean border island just eight months after sinking a Seoul warship with a torpedo. The two attacks killed 50 South Koreans.
The appointment of Yu, known as a “moderate diplomat” especially compared with his hard-line predecessor, is seen as an indication of Seoul’s willingness to soften its stance toward North Korea.
While taking office the previous day, Yu had vowed to “create the atmosphere for dialogue” with Pyongyang. The minister, however, said the immediate resumption of cross-border tours to North Korea’s mountain resort was “out of question” until North Korea takes clear measures to prevent any accident in the future.
Tours to North Korea’s Mount Geumgang have been suspended since 2007 after a South Korean tourist was shot dead by the Pyongyang soldier.
By Shin Hae-in (firstname.lastname@example.org