SEOUL, June 23 (Yonhap) — President Park Geun-hye called Tuesday for increased civilian exchanges with North Korea as part of efforts to lay the groundwork for a peaceful unification with the North.
She made the comment in a meeting with members of the National Unification Advisory Council, the presidential advisory body on unification.
The comment came a week after civic groups from South and North Korea failed to hold a joint ceremony to mark the 15th anniversary of the first inter-Korean summit.
The leaders of the two Koreas produced a joint declaration at their landmark summit in June 2000 that paved the way for eased military tensions and economic cooperation after decades of hostility.
The two sides had alternated hosting joint celebrations of the summit in the past but the joint anniversary events were suspended in recent years as tensions rose.
In May, civilian groups from South and North Korea tentatively agreed to jointly celebrate the anniversary in a three-day event starting June 14 in Seoul.
But earlier this month, the North declared it “would be better” to hold separate events, denouncing Seoul for refusing to allow the joint events to be held in Pyongyang and setting preconditions by allowing only non-political exchanges.
Park also called for thorough preparations for potential unification with North Korea as she asked South Koreans to put aside differences and frictions over discussions on unification.
South Koreans are deeply divided along ideological fault lines on how to cope with North Korea.