The South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU) on Friday unveiled plans to “regularize” high-level talks between the two Koreas and promote civilian inter-Korean exchanges, in a briefing with Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon.
At a 2018 policy briefing by five government ministries, the MOU said it planned to “regularize and systemize South-North talks” to restore inter-Korean relations.
“We will regularize the high-level talks and discuss pending issues between the South and the North in a comprehensive manner,” the unification ministry said in a document seen by NK News.
The MOU said Seoul will encourage Pyongyang to come forward to the “negotiating table for denuclearization based on the South-North dialogue and international cooperation.”
The two Koreas have high-level and working-level talks since January 9, aimed at discussing DPRK participation in next month’s PyeongChang Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), in turn, said it hopes to use the year to help achieve dialogue between the North and the U.S.
“We will continue to devote our efforts to secure understanding and support from the international community including the U.S so that the momentum for recent talks can lead to peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue,” the ministry said in a briefing document.
U.S. President Donald Trump last Tuesday said the U.S. would be open to dialogue with the North “at the appropriate time” during a phone call with South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in in the aftermath of the first high-level inter-Korean talks since 2015.
“In particular, we emphasized that we will concentrate our diplomatic capability on inducing the North and the U.S. enter dialogue process together and endeavor to make a virtuous circle between North-South dialogue and talks between the North and the U.S.,” MOFA added.
The unification ministry also said it would “establish sustainable inter-Korean relations” and push forward in providing the North with humanitarian assistance.
Seoul will provide support for vulnerable groups including infants, toddlers, and pregnant women, while prioritizing aid in the health and medical field.
The government in September approved USD$8 million in humanitarian aid via international organizations, but the money is yet is to arrive in the North.
In addition, the unification ministry says it plans to resolve humanitarian issues such as separated families and South Koreans imprisoned in the DPRK.
Seoul will push for holding reunion events of families separated by the Korean War, and hopes to arrange visits to the North for them to visit their hometown and ancestral graves, exchange letters, and confirm the life or death of relatives in the North.
Inter-Korean exchanges through local governments and private organizations will be “kicked into high gear” by the North’s participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics, the report read.
“Multilateral exchanges will be expanded including forestry, region, sports and health and medical treatment with the framework of sanctions on North Korea,” it added.
Seoul will also push ahead with a plan to fund a census in North Korea, which will be carried out this year in tandem with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and will support international academic events in which North Korean scholars will participate.
The two Koreas in August last year had “impromptu contact” in Bangkok, Thailand to discuss plans to support UNFPA in its work.
To solidify the foundations for exchanges and cooperation, the government will carry out a “revision of the Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Act.”
The unification ministry also laid out plans to resume economic cooperation between the two Koreas with a plan for “a new economic map for the Korean peninsula,” first proposed last year in the Moon administration’s five-year policy roadmap.
The MOU said the South will raise the topic at future inter-Korean talks while “preparing for cooperation projects to lead for the North’s participation.”
“We will create an environment for cooperation by implementing projects that can be done in our region within the current framework for sanctions on North Korea.”
The Moon administration also hopes to persuade Pyongyang to take part in new multilateral “strategic cooperation” with China’s One Belt, One Road infrastructure initiative and Russian plans to develop its Far East region.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Ministry of Unification
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