South Korea Remains Optimistic About Dialogue With North
MOSCOW, RIA Novosti (October 5) - South Korea has expressed optimism about improving relations with the North, despite recent setbacks including the cancellation of high level talks which had been due to take place October 30.
'I think it's more important to lay the foundation for the South and the North to move forward together with stability and normality, rather than ostensibly taking a few steps forward at once," said Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae in a speech today at Soongsil University, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.
Last month the BBC reported that talks were scheduled for the end of October, as a consequence of an agreement reached between the two countries upon an unexpected visit by high-ranking North Korean officials during the closing ceremony of the Asian Games, which were held in the South October 4.
However, the talks were cancelled by the North, which remains displeased by the South's refusal to curtail the balloon leaflet campaign currently being carried out by activists within its borders. "Any dialogue between the North and the South cannot be held amid the ceaseless leaflet scattering operations malignantly hurting the dignity and social system of the DPRK," said the North in a November 1 press release.
Activist groups, including defectors from the North, are behind a propaganda campaign which launches balloons carrying leaflets critical of the northern regime across the border from the South. So far the government of the South has refused to take action against the groups responsible, stating that it supported free speech. Yonhap reports Prime Minister Chung Hong-won as saying at a National Assembly session that '(The government) has no grounds to legally control the scattering of leaflets against North Korea.'
Yonhap though has reported that yesterday South Korea's main opposition party will consider ways of restricting the flying of anti-Korean leaflets across the border, and today a coalition of over 20 South Korean civic groups held a rally in central Seoul calling for more talks: 'We appeal to the government to take active measures to improve South-North relations.' Those participating included Buddhist leaders and businesspeople working on inter-Korean economic cooperation projects.
However, officials told Yonhap that the "chances are slim" of a dialogue resuming before the end of this year. Talks between the two sides last took place in February, when family reunions were held in the North for hundreds of Koreans separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. The South proposed high level talks in August, but the offer was rebuffed by the North.
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