News / Asia

Koreas High-Level Talks Raise Hopes of Improved Relations

South Korean chief delegate Kim Kyou-hyun, right, shakes hands with his North Korean counterpart Won Tong Yon upon his arrival at the border village of Panumjom, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014.
South Korean chief delegate Kim Kyou-hyun, right, shakes hands with his North Korean counterpart Won Tong Yon upon his arrival at the border village of Panumjom, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014.
Daniel Schearf
North and South Korea have held their highest level talks in seven years, raising hopes for improved relations between the two nations.
 
North Korea requested the unexpected high-level talks that opened Wednesday. South Korea said there is no formal agenda or timetable, but that the talks would include plans for family reunions.
 
Officials from the two Koreas met in the truce village of Panmunjom, along the heavily fortified border known as the demilitarized zone (DMZ).
 
South Korea sent representatives from the office of the president and Ministries of Unification and Defense. The North Korean officials were from the Workers' Party of Korea, the military and the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea.
 
Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korean studies professor at Dongguk University, said the stepped-up dialogue indicates North Korea wants to present a better image and resume six-nation negotiations on its nuclear programs.
 
On the other hand, Kim said, the talks could also be viewed as North Korea trying to show a warm gesture indirectly towards the United States. Coming one day ahead of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to South Korea, he said, Pyongyang may be demonstrating its intention to improve inter-Korean relations.
 
North Korea is pushing for a resumption of nuclear talks involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United states. However, Washington, Seoul and Tokyo want to see sincere gestures from Pyongyang before returning to negotiations.
 
The high-level talks are also a week before rescheduled reunions of 180 families separated since the 1950s Korean War.
 
The reunions, the first since 2010, were planned to take place last September, but North Korea postponed them, citing what it described as a hostile and arrogant attitude from South Korea.
 
Pyongyang last month agreed to six days of reunions from February 20 at its Mount Kumgang resort. However, last week it threatened to once again scuttle the plan unless the United States and South Korea cancel joint military drills.
 
North Korea considers the annual exercises preparation for an invasion while Washington and Seoul say they are to maintain readiness for Pyongyang's provocations.
 
Despite the tension, political analyst Kim said North Korea is not likely to delay the reunions again.
 
He said that if North Korea does postpone the family reunions again, it would endure scathing criticism.
 
Regardless, the reunions this time could be postponed by bad weather. The Mount Kumgang resort area was hit this week with two meters of snow. South Korea sent nine snow plows to clear roads leading up to the venue, but more snow is expected.
 
The last high-level talks between the two Koreas led to the 2007 summit meeting in Pyongyang between former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun.
 
However, relations plummeted afterwards over North Korea's pursuit of nuclear and long-range weapons, the deadly sinking in 2010 of a South Korean navy ship and the shelling of a South Korean island.
 
Former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Donald Gregg, an advocate for dialogue, is visiting Pyongyang for the Pacific Century Institute. Tom Plate, one of the institute's board members, said the trip is not aimed at securing the release of detained U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae, but they would welcome any opportunity to help.
 
“I can only give you the psychology of the team going... that's up there. And, that is that they do not underestimate the intelligence of the North Korean government or its officials. And, I think they feel it would be impolite to raise the issue. But, at the same time, I think they would be astonished if their counterparts up there were not aware that they would like to be some help if that were possible,” said Plate.
 
The U.S. State Department last weekend said Pyongyang, for the second time, withdrew an invitation for special envoy Robert King come to discuss releasing Bae.
 
The American missionary has been detained for over a year, part of a 15-year sentence for hostile acts against the state. Despite health issues, he was recently transferred from a hospital to a labor camp.
 
U.S. civil rights activist Jesse Jackson volunteered to go to North Korea, if invited, to seek Bae's release on behalf of his family. The State Department said it would support such efforts.
 
VOA Seoul Bureau Producer Youmi Kim contributed to this report.

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs