Pyongyang : The rival Koreas on Friday opened their first liaison office near their tense border to facilitate better communication and exchanges ahead of their leaders’ summit in Pyongyang next week. The office’s opening in the North Korean border town of Kaesong is the latest in a series of reconciliatory steps the Koreas have taken this year. The office is the first of its kind since the Koreas were divided at the end of World War II in 1945.
In an opening ceremony at Kaesong, South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said the office will become the “cradle of Korean co-prosperity.”
“We’ll sit face to face, exchange our thoughts fast and accurately and put our heads together to resolve difficult matters,” he said in remarks distributed by his office.
The Koreas so far have been using telephone and fax-like communication channels when they want to arrange talks and exchange messages. But those channels have often been suspended when tensions rose over North Korea’s nuclear program.
About 15-20 South Korean officials will work at the office from 9 to 5, sleep at nearby lodgings in Kaesong on weekdays and take turns staffing the office on weekends. They will deal with an equal number of North Korean officials stationed at the office to discuss various inter-Korean issues, exchange messages from their capitals and facilitate civilian exchange programs, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry.
The office will be co-headed by Vice South Korean Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung and a deputy head of Ri’s committee. They will hold an official meeting once a week, a ministry statement said.
The resumption of the Kaesong park and other dormant inter-Korean co-operation projects aren’t likely to happen anytime soon because U.S.-led international sanctions on North Korea remain in place. Seoul officials said workers renovated some of the buildings used in the complex to use as the liaison office and the lodging facility.