Minister of Unification Cho Myoung-Gyon makes a formal proposal to hold high-level talks with North Korea, to discuss the possibility of Pyongyang sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang next month, during a press conference at the Government Complex Seoul on Jan. 2. (Ministry of Unification)

By Lee Hana

The Ministry of Unification held an urgent press conference to make a formal proposal to hold high-level talks with North Korea, at the Government Complex Seoul on Jan. 2.

“Taking into consideration that the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games are now only a month away, we have sent a proposal to Pyongyang to hold high-level talks at the Panmunjeom truce village on Jan. 9,” said Minister of Unification Cho Myoung-Gyon.

“During the talks, we would discuss the possibility of North Korea sending a delegation to the PyeongChang Olympics,” he said.

“We look forward to the launch of talks between the North and South, during which the two sides will be able to sit face-to-face and discuss not only the upcoming Winter Olympics, but issues directly related to improving inter-Korean ties. Once again, we want to make clear that our side is willing to engage in dialogue with Pyongyang without restriction as to time, place or level of formality,” he stressed.

Furthermore, the minister said, “In order for high-level talks between North and South Korea to take place, we will need to swiftly normalize inter-Korean communication channels at the Panmunjeom truce village. Through this channel, we hope to open discussions about the meeting agenda, the makeup of the delegation, and other specific procedures. We look forward to hearing an optimistic response from the North.”

When asked if he believes high-level talks would help restore inter-Korean relations, the minister replied that the main agenda item of the talks would be Pyongyang’s participation in the PyeongChang Winter Games.

“However, given that dialogue between the North and South was severed for a very long time, and given that Kim Jong-un expressly stated that he hopes to improve inter-Korean relations, we are hopeful that a face-to-face meeting would allow for the two sides to bring a number of other mutual interests to the table,” he said.

Earlier that day, President Moon Jae-in held the administration’s first Cabinet meeting of 2018. Referring to Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s speech, the president instructed related government bodies to make arrangements to respond to the North Korean leader’s conciliatory message.