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Ministry of Unification seeks renewal of inter-Korean dialogue

With the state of inter-Korean affairs in flux following the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, the Ministry of Unification (MOU) has made the stability of the Korean Peninsula its top priority.

Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik announced at a policy briefing at the Special Office for Inter-Korean Dialogue on January 5 that the MOU has formulated a strategic and active policy plan for 2012. According to Minister Yu, the plan will not only address the current situation but also help lay the foundation for future reunification efforts.

President Lee Myung-bak, Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik, and Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik attend a policy briefing at the Special Office for Inter-Korean Dialogue on January 5
President Lee Myung-bak, Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik, and Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik attend a policy briefing at the Special Office for Inter-Korean Dialogue on January 5 (Photo: Cheong Wa Dae).

The plan identifies three main goals for this year, namely, the management of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, the pursuit of the normal development of inter-Korean relations, and practical preparations for reunification. Eight core tasks have also been outlined as concrete steps for realizing these goals.

With regards to the goal of maintaining peace and stability, the MOU plans to take greater initiative in leading the progress of inter-Korean relations and also establish a new channel for dialogue. Steps toward the normalization of inter-Korean relations will include addressing key humanitarian issues and laying the groundwork for peaceful community formation. In addition to raising the finances and public support that will make reunification viable, the MOU will also focus on expanding existing programs for North Korean refugee resettlement, youth education, and unification diplomacy.

The opening of a new dialogue channel, in particular, will allow for increased communication concerning unresolved issues such as the liability of North Korea with regards to the Cheonan incident, the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, and the commitment of North Korean leadership to the goal of denuclearization. Moreover, the channel will allow discussion on jointly operated programs like reunions for separated families, the Kaesong Industrial Region, and the presently suspended Mt. Geumgang tours.

“While the Cheonan and Yeonpyeong incidents cannot be glossed over, our vantage point in approaching inter-Korean relations orients us toward the future, and not the past,” said Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk.

Clear skies overhead at the Kaesong Industrial Park. This photo was taken by the Ministry of Unification in September 2011
Clear skies overhead at the Kaesong Industrial Park. This photo was taken by the Ministry of Unification in September 2011 (Photo: Yonhap News).

The MOU will also seek to expand humanitarian aid to vulnerable social sectors and regions in North Korea, in addition to finding appropriate resolutions for the issues of POWs, abductees to the North, and separated families. Accordingly, plans are underway to arrange for the delivery of basic medical supplies, health care, and nutritional supplements via international organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund).

The 2012 policy plan, in a notable change from last year, included discussing implementation of the June 15th Declaration signed in 2000 and the October 4th declaration signed in 2007.

President Lee Myung-bak, in attendance for the presentation, stressed that hasty action based on anxiety rather than principle would not contribute to establishing genuine cooperation with North Korea, and reiterated the importance of steady and reasoned engagement.

Following the presentation, President Lee and MOU staff members in their 20s and 30s participated in a discussion on the resettlement of North Korean refugees and reunification finance. The staff members also shared accounts of their experiences working at Kaesong, monitoring food aid distribution, and assisting with reunions for separated families.

*Adapted from Weekly Gonggam

Translated by Kwon Jungyun Staff Writer


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