News / Asia

    South Korea Accepts North's Surprise Offer of Talks

    South Korea's Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae releases a government statement during a news conference at the unification ministry in Seoul, April 26, 2013.South Korea's Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae releases a government statement during a news conference at the unification ministry in Seoul, April 26, 2013.
    x
    South Korea's Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae releases a government statement during a news conference at the unification ministry in Seoul, April 26, 2013.
    South Korea's Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae releases a government statement during a news conference at the unification ministry in Seoul, April 26, 2013.
    South Korea is proposing a date and venue for talks with North Korea. The proposal comes just hours after Pyongyang made a surprise offer for talks on a wide range of issues and said it would leave it up to Seoul to choose the timing and location. This marks a significant reversal of tensions on the peninsula, which had been at their highest state in decades.

    South Korea accepted Pyongyang's proposal for working-level talks. And a few hours after that statement, Ryoo Kihl-Jae, the cabinet minister in charge of relations with the North, stepped in front of cameras and reporters in Seoul to suggest a specific place and time for what would be the first official direct dialogue in years between the two Koreas.

    Unification Minister Ryoo said the discussions would cover the abandoned joint venture projects at the Kaesong industrial zone and the Kumgang mountain resort. He said Seoul wants the talks to be held in the South Korean capital on June 12.

    North's overture

    The minister urged Pyongyang on Friday to pick up the inter-Korean hotline at the truce village of Panmunjom to discuss the details.

    Earlier this year, North Korea stopped using those communications links amid rising tension on the peninsula.

    North Korea's surprise offer of talks earlier Thursday was issued in the name of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland. It came in a special announcement aired shortly after noon on North Korean radio and television.

    The North Korean announcer says the North proposes holding talks about normalizing the operation in the Kaesong Industrial Zone and resuming tours to Mt. Kumgang. Humanitarian issues, such as the reunion of separated families and their relatives, can also be discussed during the talks, if necessary.

    Kaesong Joint Industrial Complex

    -Started producing goods in 2004
    -Employs about 53,000 North Koreans
    -120 South Korean businesses operate there
    -Hailed as rare example of North/South cooperation
    -Generates $2 billion in trade annually for North
    -Located 10 kilometers north of border
    The Kaesong industrial complex, just north of the border, ceased operations in April, when North Korea pulled its 43,000 factory workers from the complex.

    Seoul already has offered working-level talks, but only to discuss allowing the managers of the more than 100 South Korean factories in the zone to be able to retrieve raw materials and finished goods left behind after they pulled out.

    The Kumgang mountain tourism resort, another rare inter-Korean cooperative venture, also generated millions of dollars worth of revenue for the communist government.

    Possibility of thaw

    Three years ago, the North seized the assets of the South Korean government and private entities at the resort. It expelled the South Korean workers who had remained behind to maintain hotels and restaurants following a 2008 incident in which a South Korean was shot dead by a North Korean soldier near the resort.

    The North's relatively flexible offer of talks about the halted projects is seen as a significant reversal after recent months of bellicose rhetoric.

    Pyongyang had threatened to launch a nuclear war - a threat not taken very seriously by Seoul or Washington. It also declared the 1953 Korean War armistice to be void and vowed to continue pursuing its development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in defiance of international sanctions.

    The offer of talks from Pyongyang was made just after South Korean President Park Geun-hye gave a Memorial Day speech that contained remarks directed at the North.

    "North Korea must give up its policies that are fueling its isolation and backwardness and bravely accept the hand of reconciliation being offered by South Korea and the global community and strive for mutual prosperity," said Park.

    The two Koreas have never established diplomatic relations nor signed a peace treaty.

    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

    You May Like

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Mali, a Way Station for Syrians Headed to Europe

    Another door may be closing for Syrians fleeing the conflict in their country, this time in Africa

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Russ from: California
    June 06, 2013 12:53 PM
    Yep, as predicted, here we go again. The North throws a tantrum, The south says no talks for talks sake, then the North issues a statement 'lets talk', and South Korea says "Okay". by this time next year after we give the North what they want in food and money, they will throw another tantrum, test another nuclear device, it's a revolving door, broken record that keeps playing the same thing over and over. I blame the North for acting like a spoiled child and I blame the south and U.S. for not only condoning it in the end but then rewarding them for it. The south and the U.S. acts weak, because in there mind set and actions, they ARE weak.

    by: Steve in Michigan from: Michigan
    June 06, 2013 10:33 AM
    One, the North makes all the demands for reunification only to renege all the time with childish outcomes. Make them come to you in the South and have that so called leader be present. I would not deal with no one but him to make sure he get the message right and not fabricated description by those illiterate generals taking back what was said. They have done this time and time again, seizing property that doesn't belong to them and bilking investors out of billions of dollars. That is a thuggish regime that isn't sincere about anything that comes out of their mouths.

    They are counterfeiters, heroine manufacturers, sadistic leaders, kidnappers, murderers and most of all in-humane. They need to put that up first before opening anything again because they want to have control over what's going on. They need you, you don't need them! The people should be able to travel to visit their relatives and when the others see the likes and brainwashing they have endured, they will never trust that government again. They are liars and well thieves. It bad to see people herded like cattle with nothing to look forward to but labor camps and slavery. Don't send them no aid until they get these other things behind them. Hold the talks on an island in the South for security reasons and have joint military protection from all nations involved. Until then, you'll be beating a dead horse!
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    June 06, 2013 5:52 PM
    Or . . . like clockwork, every year America sends warships to play wargames and drills with the South Koreans. Every time they do this North Korea demands that they stop provoking them or face retaliation. All sides stop talking. America goes home and then talks continue. I wonder what the best way to encourage peace is? Maybe America could stop trying to police/provoke the world.
    In Response

    by: Guy from: Seattle
    June 06, 2013 1:02 PM
    To "John" from "Taiwan".

    Ok, but then that piece of "Occupied Chinese Territory" you're in goes back too. ;)
    In Response

    by: Richard from: California
    June 06, 2013 12:28 PM
    John: "Recognize North Korea and bring out to the world."

    What are you saying?
    In Response

    by: John from: Taiwan
    June 06, 2013 12:04 PM
    The US has had sixty years to figure out some way to deal with North Korea. Like Vietnam and Cuba, North Korea (and China) either defeated America or fought it to a draw. America is obviously just a poor loser. Recognize North Korea and bring out to the world.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora