The first military working talks between South and North Korea in four months were held yesterday in Panmunjom from 10 a.m. until late in the evening with numerous halts, signaling a long slog ahead for the two sides to agree on high-level military talks. They will meet again tomorrow.
Three officials from each side met to determine the timing and topics to be discussed at future high-level military talks.
North Korea asked that those talks be held a day before the birthday of its founder Kim Il Sung, which falls on April 15. The South Korean delegation requested the talks be held after May.
South Korean Col. Moon Sang-gyun and North Korean Col. Ri Son-kwon led the two delegations.
The two parties started their dialogue with “talk of the weather,” said an official from the Ministry of National Defense and without the customary, antagonistic political remarks, discussion commenced on the agenda and other details of future high-level military talks. But the first round of talks was cut short and officials adjourned for lunch at 10:54 a.m. The meeting continued at 2:00 p.m. with several recesses.
Government officials expected the preparatory talks for high-level military talks to be arduous, as conflicting demands will make it difficult for the two sides to reconcile various matters, starting with who will lead the high-level military talks. In such talks, anyone from a general to the minister of national defense can lead dialogue, the South Korean Defense Ministry said.
North Korea expressed its opinion that three-star generals should lead the talks and not defense ministers. South Korea is saying that four-star generals should lead the discussions, and that the North should earnestly participate in the talks, according to a government official.
“It’s likely a strategy to bring Lt. Gen. Kim Yong-chol to the table,” said the Defense Ministry source.
Seoul believes that Kim commanded the torpedo attack on the Cheonan naval warship last March.
North and South Korea initially agreed that last year’s attacks against South Korea - the sinking of the Cheonan and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island - would be discussed at high-level military talks. A government official said yesterday that the North would have to show a responsible attitude for the two Koreas to move on to high-level talks. However, the North continues to deny being behind the Cheonan sinking, and asserts that the Yeonpyeong shelling was provoked by the South Korean Navy intruding into its maritime territory.
Since North Korea requested a discussion of “recent military issues at hand” during their numerous requests for talks earlier this year, Seoul expects that the Northern Limit Line will also be discussed during high-level talks. The disputed maritime border between the two Koreas in the Yellow Sea has been the scene of several naval clashes as North Korea refuses to consider it a legitimate border.
North Korea has also been objecting to the upcoming Key Resolve exercises to be conducted by South Korea and the United States, as well as all other joint military drills. With so many issues to resolve, one government official said yesterday it may take several preparatory sessions like yesterday’s before high-level talks are held.
Source: Joongang Daily
More than one in three North Korean defectors put behind bars in South Korea were convicted of drug crimes, a study showed yesterday.
Out of 48 inmates from the North as of last year, 35 percent - or 17 people - were convicted of drug-related offenses, followed by 12 assaults, 10 murders and the rest other petty crimes, according to a paper by the Korean Institute of Criminology (KIC).
The study revealed that most of the drug traffickers did not have stable jobs after defecting here, earning about 700,000 won ($634) a month, below the minimum monthly wage of about 900,000 won. On average, they stayed more than 42 months in a third country, usually China, before entering the South.
The number of North Korean defectors in the South exceeded 20,000 as of November. Despite three months of resettlement training and some financial aid, many of them have trouble adapting to life in the South. Jang Jun-oh, author of the KIC paper, attributed their longer stay in the border region between North Korea and China to their drug trafficking activities, as they began dealing before entering the nation.
“Since the annual number of North Korean defectors surpassed 1,000 in the 2000, incidents of drug trafficking have increased and become more systematic,” Jang said.
The defectors delivered or sold drugs through their immediate family members and drug trafficking rings as well as other relatives or acquaintances in the North. In some cases, they directly smuggled drugs from the North, Jang said.
Among the 17 inmates, 16 said they got involved in the drug trade through the defector network and did it to help support their families here or left behind in the North.
Source: Joongang Daily