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

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

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.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid