The South-North liaison office will be launched in the North’s border town of Kaesong at 10:30 a.m. Friday, with an opening ceremony that will be attended by about 100 people from the two Koreas, the ministry said in a press release. South Korea’s Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon and Ri Son-gwon chairman of North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country will attend the ceremony.
|The South-North joint liaison office in Kaesong, North Korea. (Ministry of Unification)|
“The liaison office will become a round-the-clock consultation and communication channel for advancing inter-Korean relations, easing military tensions and establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula,” the ministry said.
“We expect that South-North relations will be managed in a stable manner through 24-hour communication, 365 days of the year, which is also expected to be conducive to advancing relations between North Korea and the United States,” it added.
The office will start operating immediately after the opening ceremony, where the two sides will sign an agreement detailing how to manage the liaison office, according to the ministry.
Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung has been tapped as the South’s chief of the liaison office and will lead around 20 South Korean officials stationed there. North Korea’s vice chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country will be the North’s head of the office. North Korea also plans to assign 15 to 20 officials to the office.
The two co-heads will hold a weekly meeting at the office and additional consultations if necessary.
Though the opening of the office is a key step for the two Koreas in implementing the Panmunjom Declaration reached by their leaders in April, experts warned that the US still has concerns surrounding the office.
Seoul’s initial plan was to launch the office by the end of August, but it was delayed over the US’ worries that the latest advances in inter-Korean ties were not in tandem with progress in US-North Korea nuclear talks.
“It seems the US has decided to stay silent on the matter for the part South Korea is playing in North Korea’s denuclearization process, but the follow-up operations of the liaison office will not be as easy as Friday’s opening,” said Cho Han-bum, a senior researcher at the Korean Institute for National Unification.
Referring to US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun’s meetings with Seoul officials on Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Noh Kyu-duk told reporters that the interactions provided a “good opportunity” for the US to gain a more in-depth understanding of the liaison office from South Korea’s perspective.
By Jung Min-kyung (firstname.lastname@example.org)