North Korea Summit Proposed
Wednesday, March 28th 2007, 7:36 am
News On 6
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ South Korea's president and the leader of North Korea should hold a summit later this year, a former South Korean minister suggested Wednesday.
Chung Dong-young, a former Cabinet minister in charge of ties with the North, made the proposal at a meeting with North Korean officials during his private visit to a joint-venture industrial complex in the border city of Kaesong, said Lee Jae-kyung, an aide to Chung.
Chung proposed the two Koreas hold a summit at the industrial complex _ a prominent symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation _ before the end of August, because ``that would be the most appropriate and desirable'' place, said Lee, who accompanied Chung to Kaesong.
Lee stressed, however, that Chung is not a representative of the South Korean government.
Officials at the presidential office and the Unification Ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing protocol, also said Chung was acting on his own initiative.
North and South Korea have held summit talks only once, in 2000.
Chung holds no government office after resigning as unification minister in 2005. A former chairman of the pro-government Uri Party, Chung is preparing to run for the presidential election.
An inter-Korean summit is a politically sensitive issue in South Korea this year because the nation is expected to elect a new president in December.
A summit between South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il could sway voters toward pro-unification candidates such as Chung, and away from conservative opposition party candidates who hold large leads in opinion polls.
The industrial complex, a few miles north of the frontier separating the two Koreas, combines South Korean technology and management expertise with North Korea's cheap labor. Currently, 22 South Korean companies operate factories there, employing about 12,400 North Korean workers.
South Korea hopes the project will encourage North Korea to reform its centrally controlled economy and eventually open up to the outside world.
The two Koreas are still technically at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.