South and North Koreans call for resumption of exchanges
SEOUL, Nov. 4 (Yonhap) -- Hundreds of South Korean civic leaders and North Korean officials on Sunday renewed calls for the resumption of inter-Korean exchanges as they met at a scenic mountain resort on the North's east coast for the first time in a decade.
The two-day meeting at Mount Kumgang that ended on Sunday came amid rapprochement on the divided Korean Peninsula following inter-Korean summits between the leaders of the two Koreas.
The meeting involved some 300 South Koreans, mostly from the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation (KCRC), a major pro-unification activist group in Seoul. About 200 North Korean officials attended the meeting.
The participants called for faithful implementation of the summit agreements between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Lee Si-jong, policy director at KCRC, said by phone after returning home from North Korea.
He said the two sides discussed ways to resume bilateral exchanges in the fields of education, religion, youth and women's issues. There will be more meetings to promote inter-Korean cooperation on those matters.
It marked the first time that South Korean civic leaders met with North Korean officials in Mount Kumgang since 2008 when a South Korean female tourist was fatally shot near the resort.
South Korea has since suspended an inter-Korean tour program to the resort, stripping the North of a key source of much-needed hard currency.
Inter-Korean ties worsened in 2010 when North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong Island and torpedoed a South Korean warship near the western sea border, killing a total of 50 South Koreans, mostly sailors.
The relations got a big boost this year as Moon and Kim met for three summits and agreed to work to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and develop inter-Korean relations.
North Korea has been under tightened U.N. sanctions, as well as separate U.S. sanctions, over its nuclear tests and long-range rocket launches, meaning that South Korea cannot move forward alone to jump-start the joint factory park and the tour program. The U.N. sanctions effectively ban, among other things, transfers of bulk cash to Pyongyang.
Source: Yonhap News Agency