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Dagyum Ji was a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korea’s chief delegate to inter-Korean talks on Tuesday said he hopes dialogue will lead to the “first present of the new year and precious results” for people in both Koreas.
Tuesday saw Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC), express his hopes for a good outcome for the talks, calling for the North and the South Korean authorities to conduct the meeting “with the serious position and sincere attitude.”
“I came here to the venue with the thoughts of giving the first gift of the new year and precious results to the entire nations who have great expectations while keeping close tabs on the high-level talks,” he said, delivering opening remarks at the meeting, which began at 1000 KST.
Ri also described Tuesday meeting as a “precious” opportunity provided due to the “people’s desire to improve inter-Korean relations.”
“When popular sentiment and general trend are combined, it is called the will of Heaven. And the North-South high-level meeting is held by holding the divine will,” Ri, clad in a Western-style suit, told his South Korean counterpart Minister of Unification Cho Myoung-gyon.
North-South relations have been “more frozen” than the winter weather on the Korean peninsula, he said.
Cho said he agreed that the talks should be held “in a sincere and serious manner.”
“There is a saying that the beginning is half of the whole. The talks began as the inter-Korean relations have been severed for a long time,” the unification minister told Ri, sharing his view that the two Korea could pursue talks “with determination and persistence.”
Citing the idiom that “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” Cho said he hoped the two Koreas could resolve pending issues “one by one without hurry.”
“I hope that we can make a good gift to live up to the public sentiment at the first inter-Korean talks today like you mention.”
In response to Cho’s remarks, Ri raised the possibility of opening up the talks to the public.
“The formation of the meeting is a problem,” Ri told Cho. “Our side has the opinion that we should open the actual scene of the meeting to the entire nation as it has been drawing the attention strongly from the inside and outside…”
Cho said the two Koreas could hold a closed-door meeting as they have done in the past, and that the talks would be open to journalists “if necessary.”
“What is clear is that it would be good if we can show the meeting in a transparent manner and how the North and the South seriously put effort as the public have high expectations,” Ri said, adding the two Koreas could “live up to the public sentiment” through greater openness.
The North Korean side agreed to hold the meeting behind closed doors, calling for the South to share the situation of the meeting to reporters “when necessary.”
South Korea’s Ministry of Unification (MOU) said the general meeting finished at 1105 KST, while meetings between the chief delegates will be held from 1130 KST.
Speaking to press at the Office of Inter-Korean Dialogue this morning, unification minister said the two would discuss the North Korean delegation’s participation in the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games as well as “the issue of improving the inter-Korean relations.”
Cho said the South Korean delegation will put efforts into making the upcoming games a “peace festival” and that inter-Korean talks were a “good first step in improving inter-Korean relations.”
Cho said the South Korean delegation would “not be in a hurry and engage in the meeting in a calm manner to live up to the public’s expectations.”
The South Korean delegation, led by Cho, left the Office of Inter-Korean Dialogue in Seoul at 0732 KST (1732 EST) and arrived in Panmunjom at 0846 KST.
Two ministerial-level government officials – Vice Minister of Unification Chun Hae-sung and Second Vice Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Roh Tae-kang – also took part in the high-level talks between the Koreas along with two government senior officials.
The North Korean delegation — headed by Ri — crossed the military demarcation line (MDL) at around 0930 KST and walked to the meeting venue.
Vice-chairman of the CPRC Jon Jong Su, director of the CPRC Hwang Chung Song, and vice-minister of Physical Culture and Sports Won Kil U, are also participating in the meetings.
Tuesday’s inter-Korean high-level government talks are the first in just over two years.
Then-South Korean vice-unification minister Hwang Boo-gi held talks with his North Korean counterpart Jon Jong Su at the now-shuttered Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) in December 2015.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU)
North Korea's chief delegate to inter-Korean talks on Tuesday said he hopes dialogue will lead to the “first present of the new year and precious results” for people in both Koreas.