News / Asia

High-Level Korean Talks to Resume After Six Years

South Korean President Park Geun-hye, second from left, presides over a security meeting to discuss the upcoming South and North Korea talks at the presidential house in Seoul,  June 10, 2013.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye, second from left, presides over a security meeting to discuss the upcoming South and North Korea talks at the presidential house in Seoul, June 10, 2013.
— South Korean officials are expressing hope resuming high-level talks with the rival North - scheduled for Seoul on Wednesday will lead to a significant thawing of tension on the peninsula.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye is expressing hope about the first high-level dialogue with the North that her government will host.

Park on Monday, in a weekly meeting with senior secretaries, said she is looking to Wednesday's talks proceeding in a “forward-moving manner.”

The last such high-level encounter took place in 2007. That was before relations between the two Koreas - which have no diplomatic ties - deteriorated under Park's predecessor, Lee Myung-bak. He had pledged to link aid for the impoverished North with progress through international diplomacy to end Pyongyang's nuclear programs.

The two Koreas held marathon talks with mid-level officials at the Panmunjom truce village Sunday through early Monday.

They reached partial agreement on an agenda, which is to include how to revive two stalled inter-Korean joint ventures in the North: the Kaesong Industrial Zone and the Mt. Keumgang tourism complex. They also agreed to discuss resuming meetings of separated families on the peninsula.

Beyond that, there was a lack of harmony, according to a Unification Ministry senior official, Chun Hae-sung.

Chun says there was no agreement on the level of the delegation and on several agenda items and that is why Seoul and Pyongyang have issued separate statements.

The North says the Seoul discussions will also include how to commemorate previous joint statements and declarations from 1972 and 2002, as well as “private traffic and contact and the pursuit of collaborative efforts.”

South Korea's Unification Ministry, after the Sunday-morning session at Panmunjom, had said agreement had been reached for direct ministerial dialogue in Seoul. But, by the next morning, that characterization had been watered down to “inter-Korean authorities' talks.”

Some analysts quickly inferred the South had given in to the North's refusal to commit to officially deeming it “ministerial talks.”

A North Korean radio announcer read Pyongyang's version of what was supposed to have been a joint news release (as the eighth item) in the 7 a.m. Monday newscast.

The announcer says each delegation will be comprised of five members, with the North's delegation headed by a “minister-level person in authority.” But it did not name who that would be.

Media reports in Seoul say South Korean officials pressed the North to agree to send Kim Yan Gon, director of the United Front Department, perceived as a relative moderate on inter-Korean issues.

Ministers of the two Koreas met frequently between 2000 and 2007 but not since then.

Last week, the Communist North called for a resumption of inter-Korean dialogue after it engaged in a period of intense bellicose rhetoric and provocative nuclear and missile tests, which sent tensions on the peninsula to the highest level in decades.

Pyongyang also expressed anger about joint U.S.-South Korean annual military drills that, this year, included publicized flights of American bombers, capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

The direct discussions mark a significant reversal for the North, which is under international sanctions for its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons development.

The three-year Korean conflict ended in 1953 with a truce rather than a peace treaty, technically leaving the peninsula in a state of war.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.