Seoul has refused permission to five members of a civic group to visit Pyongyang, the South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU) said on Tuesday, but will allow 15 delegates to go ahead with the trip this week.
The South Korean Committee for the Implementation for the June 15 Joint Declaration has pushed ahead with a plan to hold a meeting of chairmen from the North, South, and overseas in Pyongyang between Wednesday and Saturday.
“We’ve approved the visit of 15 people to North Korea, including standing representative chairman of the committee Lee Chang-bok among 21 applicants,” an MOU official — who wished to remain anonymous — confirmed.
One person reportedly withdrew their decision to visit Pyongyang due to an injury.
The official said Seoul had taken into account “the purpose of the visit to North Korea, the characteristics of the event, the consultation with relevant organizations, an influence on inter-Korean relations” in making its decision.
Chairman Lee Chang-bok on Tuesday told NK News that the MOU’s explanation for the rejection was “unacceptable.”
In spite of the limited permission, Lee said the civic group would push ahead with the plan to visit Pyongyang via Shenyang.
The committee’s standing representative chairman said three topics will be primarily discussed with DPRK and overseas counterparts: a plan for projects to implement April’s Panmunjom Declaration, inter-Korean cultural events to mark national holidays, and discussions in various fields including labor, farmers, students, and women.
The committee earlier in the day canceled a planned news conference in which they planned to protest Seoul’s decision to grant “restricted permission for the visit to North Korea.”
The civic group cited the MOU’s postponement in submitting the document explaining its stance on the disapproval as the reason for its canceling the conference.
The purpose of the visit to the North, the group said, would be to “discuss pending issues to implement the Panmunjom Declaration including the expansion of exchanges and cooperation in various fields.”
The approval of civilian social and cultural exchanges is the first of its kind since April’s Panmunjom Declaration, though the committee said it cannot welcome the government’s decision.
“As talks have been held in the various field between the governments, we expected that [the South] would provide the permission for civilian exchanges from a broader view,” the committee said in a statement.
The government had “disappointed,” the group said, by “disapproving a considerable number of the delegates” from visiting North Korea without providing appropriate reasons.
Monday saw the NGO claim that the Moon administration had selected the visitors to Pyongyang “based on the policies of the past government.”
The committee in May attempted to visit Pyongyang to discuss inter-Korean cultural events to mark June 15, the anniversary of the first inter-Korean summit.
The visit was canceled, however, when DPRK counterparts neglected to send the formal invitation required before the South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU) can allow its citizens to visit the North.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: June 15 South Korean Committee
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