by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
South Korean President Park Geun-hye said on Monday that she is open to holding a summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un without any pre-conditions, reports Reuters.
“My position is that to ease the pain of division and to accomplish peaceful unification, I am willing to meet with anyone,” Park said in her televised New Year’s Day speech.
Park’s appeal comes after Kim announced that he was open to resuming high-level talks if South Korea was sincere about improved inter-Korean relations and proper conditions were met.
“If the atmosphere and environment is there, there is no reason not to hold a high-level summit [with South Korea],” Kim said in his address broadcasted by the state media.
However, North Korea has been sending mixed signals.
South Korea has repeatedly proposed opening dialogue with Pyongyang ever since the North Korean senior delegates made their surprise visit to the Asian Games in Incheon last year.
Despite this, the reclusive country rejected the South Korean parliament’s call on Friday for the resumption of stalled talks on various issues, including the North’s human rights and reconciliation projects. Pyongyang has also recently ignored Seoul’s call for inter-Korean negotiations.
On Saturday, North Korea offered to temporarily halt nuclear tests if the U.S. suspended its annual military drills held jointly with South Korea, but Washington immediately rejected the proposal after calling it a veiled threat.
While Park has insisted that there are no pre-conditions to holding a summit meeting with Kim, she has emphasized that North Korea should show “sincerity” in its decision to resume talks by taking steps towards denuclearization.
“North Korea should stop hesitating anymore and accept calls for dialogue,”
Inter-Korean Family Reunions
Park also stressed arranging a reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War in time for Lunar New Year’s Day, which falls on Feb. 19 this year.
“The issue of family reunions is one that cannot be delayed anymore, given the age of those in the separated families,” Park said, according to Yonhap.
The last inter-Korean family reunion was held in February 2014 with 83 elderly South Koreans and 88 North Koreans in attendance, according to the New York Times. About 70,000 South Koreans, more than half of them aged 80 or older, are on the government’s waiting list for the chance to reunite with their families from the North. While South Korean participants are chosen through lottery, it is unclear how the North chooses their candidates for these rarely held reunions.
The Interview and U.S. Sanctions
Park admitted on Monday that she has yet to see the controversial Seth Rogen comedy The Interview, which depicts the fictional assassination of Kim Jong-un, reports the AFP.
The FBI formally accused North Korea of hacking Sony Pictures. Since then, the U.S. has imposed sanctions that target North Korea’s top government officials and its defense industry. Pyongyang has condemned these sanctions and repeatedly denied any responsibility for the cyberattack–though it called the crime a “righteous deed.”
According to Yonhap, Park described the U.S. sanctions as “appropriate” and argued that North Korea should stop provoking the international community.
Korean American Author Deported
During her New Year’s speech, Park also defended her government’s decision to deport Korean American author, Shin Eun-mi, who was accused of making positive comments about North Korea in several lectures and online posts.
Shin was deported back to the States on Saturday after authorities claimed that she had violated South Korea’s National Security Law, which has often been criticize for being an infringement to freedom of speech.
Park, however, defended its use on Monday, saying that the law was necessary to “ensure security” as South Korea “remains in a standoff with the North.”
Photo courtesy of Reuters/Jung Yeon-Je/Pool.