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Unification Minister nominee says inter-Korean summit possible if needed

Unification Minister nominee Cho Myoung-gyon will pursue an inter-Korean summit if it is needed to resolve North Korea’s nuclear issues and thaw inter-Korean tensions. He will also consider the development of South Korea’s own “freikauf” model for the reunion of families separated by the Korean War, said Cho on Monday.

“Various solutions, including a South-North Korea summit, should be reviewed for the sake of resolving the North Korean nuclear issue, bringing peace on the Korean Peninsula and developing inter-Korean relations,” Cho said in a written reply to lawmakers inquiring about his policy stance, ahead of a parliamentary confirmation hearing slated for Thursday.

Unification Minister nominee Cho Myoung-gyon (Yonhap)
Unification Minister nominee Cho Myoung-gyon (Yonhap)

On the general direction of the ministry’s policy toward the North, the minister nominee stressed President Moon Jae-in’s two-track policy of sanctions and dialogue.

“The plan is to carry out all means including dialogue and sanctions to resolve the North Korean issue and inter-Korean ties,” he said.

Cho added that he would also consider the possibility of using humanitarian assistance programs to reunite families separated by the Korean War, comparing the plan to the freikauf program. The reunions had been halted since 2015 due to North Korea’s relentless provocations.

The freikauf model was West Germany’s diplomatic approach toward East Germany in releasing some 33,755 dissidents and political prisoners held there during the Cold War in exchange for money. Freikauf means “buy freedom” in German.

“The term ‘Freikauf’ in this case means that the administration will examine the interests of North Korea since the reunion of separated families is an important issue,” said a Unification Ministry official Tuesday.

Suh Hoon, the new chief of the National Intelligence Service, had also mentioned the need for an inter-Korean summit “to reduce military tensions on the Korean Peninsula and to start talks for resolving the nuclear issue” during a press conference at Cheong Wa Dae in May, before his official inauguration. Suh played a key role in arranging inter-Korean summit talks for late Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun.

In a recent interview with the Washington Post, President Moon underlined the importance of adding dialogue to gestures aimed at Pyongyang.

“To resolve the issue we have to add dialogue to the current menu of sanctions and pressure,” Moon told the Washington Post.

“Every time North Korea commits an additional provocation, the UN Security Council passes another resolution. But when it comes to dialogue, currently there is nothing set,” he said while revealing hopes to further discuss the issue with his US counterpart Donald Trump at a summit in Washington this week.

By Jung Min-kyung (