Unification minister to head to U.S. for talks about Mount Kumgang project
SEOUL-- Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul was to leave for Washington on Sunday on his first trip to the United States since taking office, with the fate of a long-suspended inter-Korean mountain tourism project expected to be among key topics of discussions.
During the seven-day trip, Kim plans to deliver a keynote address at the Korea Global Forum for Peace, an annual seminar his ministry has hosted in Washington, and meet with senior U.S. officials, congressional leaders and experts.
U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Biegun is expected to be among the officials Kim plans to meet. Biegun has recently been nominated to be the deputy secretary of state, the No. 2 job in the State Department.
A key focus of Kim's discussions in Washington is expected to be on how to save the inter-Korean tourism project to North Korea's Mount Kumgang amid Pyongyang's threat to end the joint business that was considered one of the most tangible symbols of inter-Korean reconciliation.
The North has recently demanded that the South remove all facilities it had built at the mountain resort, saying it would build a brand new resort on its own. The demand was seen as an expression of Pyongyang's frustration amid few signs the lucrative project will resume anytime soon.
In response, the South asked for working-level talks, but the North turned the offer down. Last week, the North sent an "ultimatum" to Seoul that it would unilaterally remove the South-built facilities unless Seoul tears them down on its own.
Other issues that Kim could discuss in Washington include his recent "Olympics armistice" proposal that calls for the U.S. to suspend joint military exercises with South Korea in exchange for the North suspending missile tests. Kim put forward the idea in a recent Washington Post interview.
Kim's trip also includes a stop in Los Angeles where he plans to give a lecture at the University of Southern California and meet American experts on Korea. Kim also plans to hold a meeting with Korean residents there.
Source: Yonhap News Agency