Inter-Korean summit celebration event likely to fall through

SEOUL-- North Korea has yet to invite a South Korean civic group for an inter-Korean summit anniversary event in Pyongyang slated for next week, officials said Thursday, raising the possibility of the joint event falling through.

The two Koreas' civic groups have been seeking to hold a joint celebration to mark the first summit on June 15, 2000, after new liberal President Moon Jae-in's government said it would flexibly consider resuming civilian inter-Korean exchanges.

The South's group last week accepted the North's offer to hold it in Pyongyang, instead of the North Korean border city of Kaesong.

"We sent a fax on June 5 stating our acceptance of North Korea's proposal, but the North has yet to send an invitation to us," said an official at the preparatory group.

Anybody seeking to visit North Korea needs an invitation and a document guaranteeing the safety of visiting South Koreans before applying for the government's approval. Usually, an application should be submitted seven days before the trip.

North Korea has recently turned down South Korean civic and religious groups' move to revive inter-Korean exchanges. Instead, it called on Seoul to implement two inter-Korean summit declarations on reconciliation in 2000 and 2007 before it seeks to resume exchanges.

South Koreans' joining the summit event in Pyongyang could be burdensome for Moon's government as it could give the impression to the international community that Seoul allows a potentially political event in North Korea amid the sanctions regime.

South Korea's unification ministry cast a prudent stance over its possible approval of civilians' visit to North Korea for the event.

The government said it will take into account the event's purpose, inter-Korean ties and the international environment in reviewing its approval.

The group is known to want to send a 100-member delegation via a flight route over waters off the country's west coast.

A ministry official said that it would be impossible to reopen the route, given that strained inter-Korean ties cut off communication channels.

"Given the tight schedule, it may be hard to hold a joint event next week," said the official at the South's group. "It is also uncertain whether the government will approve our officials' visit to Pyongyang."

In 2003-2008, the two sides held summit events in Seoul and Pyongyang. If approved, it would mark the first time such a celebration has been jointly held in nine years.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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