Update at 0055 KST: After an abrupt cancellation, the South Korean Committee for the Implementation for the June 15 Joint Declaration Thursday night said it had a working-level meeting with the North Korean and overseas branches in Shenyang.
North Korean officials on Thursday withdrew from a series of planned working-level meetings with South Korean civic groups set to be held in China this week, several Seoul-based NGOs who were set to participate in those talks confirmed to NK News.
The groups, the South Korean Committee for the Implementation for the June 15 Joint Declaration, Movement for One Korea, and the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation (KCRC), were set to hold working-level meetings with DPRK counterparts in Shenyang.
But they were reportedly notified of the cancellation Thursday morning, in a document sent by the overseas branch of the Committee for Implementing the June 15 Joint Declaration.
Officials at the KCRC who asked to remain anonymous confirmed to NK News that the meeting, set to be held on Sunday in Shenyang, had been canceled.
“We were given a unilateral notice of cancellation, but we are not able to figure out the reason,” one official told NK News over the phone.
North Korean officials who had arrived in Shenyang for the working-level meeting have now returned home, another KCRC official said.
The cancellation is notable: KCRC chairman Kim Hong-gul earlier this month said the talks were expected to see the two sides discuss, among other things, humanitarian food aid.
The KCRC has also held several inter-Korean events with their North Korean counterparts in the Consultative Council for National Reconciliation (CCNR), including one at Mount Kumgang on February 12-13.
The sidelines of that event saw the two sides discuss various pending issues, including a planned event called “Long March through the National Land,” in which a group of South Korean university students will cross the inter-Korean border and travel to the North.
A representative of the Seoul-based Movement for One Korea NGO — which was also set to meet North Korean counterparts this week in Shenyang— told NK News that the organization had been abruptly informed of the cancellation by the ROK June 15 committee Thursday morning.
The North Korean side had cited “various circumstances” in its reasons for calling off the talks, they added, and had not gone into greater detail.
A South Korean spokesperson of the June 15 committee — which was reportedly scheduled to meet with Northern counterparts on Thursday and Friday — did not respond to requests for comment from NK News.
In a phone interview with Seoul’s Yonhap News Agency, a spokesperson for the organization said they had received a message from the North on Thursday morning while en route to the meeting venue in Shenyang.
“We still have time until the scheduled meeting, so we plan to find out more about the situation,” they said.
After the North’s abrupt cancellation, the South’s June 15 committee later said on Thursday night it had a working-level meeting with the North Korean and overseas branches in Shenyang.
The North, South Korean and overseas branches had a “candid discussion over the current political situation, inter-Korean relations, and the implementation of the inter-Korean joint declarations, the South’s June 15 committee said in a written statement.
During the working-level contact, the North notably explained the reason for suddenly calling off the meetings with the South Korean NGOs.
“The North Korean side pushed forward consultations with [South Korean] civic groups with the intent of diagnosing inter-Korean relations which have been in a lull and discussing related tasks,” the South’s committee said.
The North said in a statement that it called off inter-Korean contacts as it was concerned its “intention was distorted as only secondary agenda topics were mentioned in the South Korean media reports, excluding fundamental issues.”
Although the civilian-level inter-Korean contact took place Thursday night, the DPRK side reportedly confirmed other meetings with Movement for One Korea and KCRC would not be held as previously outlined.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Joint Press Corps Pyongyang
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