Seoul (AsiaNews) - "The government's stance is that we will talk to North Korea in a way that is free from formalities for candid discussion on all kinds of issues," Unification Ministry spokesman Lim Byeong Cheol said today, following South Korea's usual position vis-à-vis North Korea's traditional New Year call for high level intra-Korean talks.
Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un, in his New Year speech, had flagged the possibility for a new chapter in Korean history with South Korean President Park Geun Hye. "If South Korea truly wants talks and improvement in relations, the suspended high-level contact can resume and talks on specific matters can also be held," Kim said in his address.
In fact, the first step in this direction had come last Monday, when South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae called for talks to resume on a number of issues, including reunions for families separated by the Korean War. On that occasion, the minister had added that he hoped to see North Korea respond positively.
"Kim's clearly speaking about a summit whether it be in Seoul, Pyongyang or Moscow," Ahn Chan Il, who heads the World Institute for North Korea Studies in Seoul, said by phone. "The mood between the countries should grow conciliatory at least in the early part of this year."
Moscow was mentioned because Russian President Vladimir Putin invited Kim to a May celebration to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. President Park was also invited, but she has not yet said whether she would attend or not.
The last time the leaders of the two Koreas met was 2007, when then-South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun held talks the late Kim Jong-il, father of North Korea's current dictator.
"Fine words! We hope they are really sincere," a source, anonymous for security reasons, told AsiaNews. "The fact remains; the country is increasingly isolated," said the source, who works with North Korean exiles.
"Even China is set to meet with South Korea over the next few days to discuss the North Korean nuclear issue. People are hungry. Without money from China and South Korea, they are doomed to certain death."