A soon-to-open inter-Korean joint liaison office in Kaesong is not linked to any plans for the reopening of the now-shuttered Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), South Korea’s unification minister said on Tuesday.
In an interview with local broadcaster SBS, Minister of Unification Cho Myoung-gyon said the KIC was one of several potential candidate locations for the “joint liaison office with resident representatives of both sides” agreed on by the two Koreas at last week’s summit.
The office will “facilitate close consultation between the authorities as well as smooth exchanges and cooperation between the people,” according to Friday’s Panmunjom Declaration.
“The Kaesong Industrial Complex is equipped with facilities and equipment and is easy to access, and therefore it can be considered as one of leading candidates,” Cho said in a televised interview.
“But I believe we have to consult with the North on the specific venue for installation.”
The unification minister clarified that the establishment of the liaison office was unrelated to the re-operation of the KIC, which was unilaterally closed by the Park Geun-hye government in February 2016.
“Even though the South-North Korea joint liaison office is established in Kaesong area, I’d like to say it is separate from the resumption of the Kaesong Industrial Complex,” Cho added.
Unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon spoke to SBS on Tuesday night
When asked by whether Seoul would provide the electricity for the joint liaison office, Cho said the South Korean government still needed to discuss the details with the North.
“We should make a discussion on the issue as the supply of the electricities is connected to sanctions on North Korea and can be linked to the resumption of the Kaesong Industrial Complex.”
North Korean state media in October last year suggested that some facilities at the joint industrial park were in use, and that its factories would be “more vigorously operated” in the future.
Before the shutdown of the KIC, the South’s Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) supplied electricity from the Munsan substation in Gyeonggi Province to the Peace substation in Kaesong.
Seoul no longer provides electricity to the complex, and the unification ministry has said that Pyongyang is now likely powering the KIC itself.
Tuesday also saw minister Cho say the North had agreed in principle with an earlier proposal to install inter-Korean liaison offices in Seoul and Pyongyang, and that he hoped that a planned summit between the DPRK and the U.S. would be held in the truce village of Panmunjom.
“I realized once again that Panmunjom meets a very good condition in terms of symbolism and practical aspect of holding the meeting,” he said.
“I think it will be if [the meeting] is held in Panmunjom, but we will wait and see with expectations as the North and the U.S. have various stances on issues including a place.”
CNN reported on Tuesday that an upcoming meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un would likely be held at Panmunjom – though locations such as Singapore and Mongolia have also been touted.
Cho also spoke with KBS Tuesday night to share his personal thoughts on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying that Kim had engaged in the summit “with sincerity and earnestness.”
“Although beginning with the Panmunjom Declaration this time, we should improve the South-North Korea relations and resolve the issue of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula,” Cho said. “My personal judgment is that it is such a relief is that Kim Jong Un is the counterpart of dialogue and solving the issues.”
The unification minister Cho also said the gap between the positions of Pyongyang and Washington on the issue had “decreased considerably” following the commitment to “complete denuclearization” in Friday’s Panmunjom Declaration.
Seoul believes that the North and the U.S. are “fairly close in the perspective of the ultimate goal,” he said.
When asked whether the South Korean government was being unrealistic about the prospects for ongoing diplomatic processes, Cho insisted Seoul would “never be too optimistic.”
And responding to criticisms of the Panmunjom Declaration’s limitations on the issue of a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, the unification minister told KBS the two Koreas had been limited in what they could agree to.
“We’ve considered that the Panmunjom Declaration contains the maximum-level expression at the current stage among expressions that South and North Korea can make,” Cho said.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Wikimedia Commons
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