SEOUL, South Korea – Government delegates from North and South Korea began preparatory talks today on their heavily armed border aimed at setting ground rules for a higher-level discussion on easing animosity and restoring stalled rapprochement projects.
The meeting at Panmunjom, where the truce ending the 1950-53 Korean War was signed, is the first of its kind on the Korean Peninsula in more than two years. Success will be judged on whether the delegates can pave the way for a summit between the ministers of each country’s department for cross-border affairs. Such ministerial talks haven’t happened since 2007.
The intense media interest in what’s essentially a meeting of bureaucrats to iron out technical details is an indication of how bad ties between the Koreas have been.
Any dialogue is an improvement on the belligerence that has marked the relationship over recent years, which have seen North Korean nuclear tests and long-range rocket launches, attacks in 2010 blamed on the North that killed 50 South Koreans and a steady stream in recent months of invective and threats from Pyongyang and counter-vows from Seoul.
If the Koreas can arrive at an agreement for ministerial talks, that meeting will likely focus on reopening the factory park in Kaesong that was the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean cooperation.