Amid thawing ties, local governments push for reconciliatory projects with North
SEOUL, A rapid thawing in inter-Korean relations brought about by the two Korea's agreement to hold a summit between their leaders is prompting South Korean regional governments to move ahead with a slew of projects to promote exchanges with North Korea.
Last year, the North continued to take provocative actions with its nuclear and missile development programs, heightening tensions on the Korean Peninsula amid international warnings and U.N. sanctions. But inter-Korean relations have rapidly improved following North Korea's sudden diplomatic outreach in recent months, starting with its decision to take part in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics hosted by South Korea in February.
The summit talks that South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are set to hold on Friday are expected to further facilitate cross-border exchanges in various sectors, including sports, culture and the economy, that had been stalled under the previous governments led by Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye.
The Gangwon provincial government in South Korea's northeast region, which has taken the lead in promoting inter-Korean exchanges despite escalating cross-border tensions, will take part in a youth football tournament that is scheduled to take place on June 26-29 in Pyongyang.
Also known as the Ari Sports Cup, the U-15 football event was inaugurated in Yeoncheon in the South's Gyeonggi Province in 2014 featuring six teams from four nations. The second and third editions were staged in Pyongyang in August 2016 and December last year, respectively. Gangwon Gov. Choi Moon-soon will make a visit to the North to take part in the football event.
The North Chungcheong provincial government in the country's central region is drawing up a plan to invite the North to this year's World Firefighters Games, a major international sporting event for firefighters to be held in the central city of Chungju. The Sept. 10-18 games, also known as the "mini-Olympics for firefighters," are expected to bring together about 6,000 full-time, volunteers, industrial, military fire service personnel and their families from 50 countries worldwide.
On Tuesday, officials at the regional government discussed an action plan on the invitation at a meeting of the inter-Korean exchange and cooperation committee and decided to confer with the Unification Ministry handling inter-Korean affairs to push ahead with the project.
They are also planning to propose that the two Koreas form a unified team for next year's World Martial Arts Masterships, an international martial arts competition to be hosted by the central city.
The Iksan muncipal government located in the country's southwestern region has said it will push ahead with a plan to have North Korea send a team of athletes and disabled athletes to a national athletic meet to be held in October in the city.
Iksan Mayor Jung Hun-yul expressed hope that participation in the athletic event by the North, if it takes place, will elevate the October sports gathering to an opportunity to enhance inter-Korean reconciliation, saying, "We are talking to the Korean Sports and Olympic Committee, the Culture, Sports and Tourism Ministry and the Unification Ministry on the matter."
The southwestern city of Gwangju is mulling a plan to invite North Korean artists as observers to the Gwangju Biennale scheduled for Sept. 7-Nov. 11 and to hold a special exhibition on North Korean culture during the biennale, Asia's biggest event of its kind.
Source: Yonhap News Agency