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S. Korea: Door Still Open for Talks With North

  • Kim Hwan Yong

North Korean defectors carry plastic bags of leaflets condemning Pyongyang’s government policies. Leaflets attached to balloons get sent from the border town of Paju, South Korea, on Oct. 10, 2014.

North Korean defectors carry plastic bags of leaflets condemning Pyongyang’s government policies. Leaflets attached to balloons get sent from the border town of Paju, South Korea, on Oct. 10, 2014.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye said the door is open for dialogue with Pyongyang, despite recent military provocations by the North.

"There is a saying that dialogue is needed even during wartime, and it is also essential to lessening tension and creating peace on the Korean peninsula," she said Monday in Seoul.

For the first time, Park said she was willing to discuss lifting the ban on all inter-Korean trade and investment activities except those inside the Kaesong Industrial Complex. Pyongyang has demanded an end to the so-called "May 24 sanctions," imposed by Seoul in 2010 after the South Korean warship Cheonnan was sunk near the disputed western sea border. Seoul blamed a North Korean submarine for torpedoing the ship, killing 46 sailors.

"The issue of May 24 sanctions, which is a hot topic right now, needs to be resolved through genuine dialogue between the North and South Korean authorities," Park said.

But she accused North Korea of acting in bad faith by showing both a willingness to engage the South while provoking it militarily.

Park’s comments come two days after North Korea said high-level talks with Seoul were "all but scrapped," following an exchange of gunfire over South Korean activists’ launch of anti-Pyongyang leaflets.

Surprise visit

In a rare and surprising move, a high-ranking delegation from the North visited South Korea on October 4. The delegation – led by the North’s presumed No. 2 official, Hwang Pyong So – agreed to resume a high-level dialogue with Seoul that has been stalled since February.

But shortly after the visit, South and North Korean navy patrol boats exchanged fire at the Northern Limit Line, a boundary drawn by the United Nations that serves as the maritime border between the two countries.

And on October 10, the North targeted activists’ balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang leaflets. The incident led to gunfire between the two Koreas. No one was injured in either incident.

Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.

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