S.Korea, DPRK agree to hold vice ministers' meeting for improved ties

Updated: 2015-11-27 11:10


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SEOUL - South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) agreed to hold a vice ministerial-level meeting next month in the DPRK's border city of Kaesong, Seoul's unification ministry said on Friday.

According to the joint press release unveiled after working-level contact, the two Koreas agreed to hold the inter-governmental talks on Dec. 11 at the Kaesong industrial complex in the namesake city.

Chief delegates from both sides will be vice ministerial-level officials, and the number of delegation will depend on each side's convenience.

On the agenda during the vice ministers' meeting will be issues on improving inter-Korean relations, according to the two-point press release.

Preparations and necessary procedures for the upcoming inter-governmental talks will be discussed via the liaison office in the truce village of Panmunjom.

The agreement was reached after marathon talks between working-level officials from the two sides at the Tongil House, an administrative building on the north side of Panmunjom.

The working-level contact, which kicked off at 12:50 pm local time (0350 GMT) Thursday, was held to discuss the timing, venue, agenda and the rank of representatives for inter-governmental talks, which the two Koreas agreed in late August to hold.

The contact started later than scheduled time of 10:30 a.m. as it took time to build a temporary communications line in the venue.

The marathon contact continued into Friday due to differences over details on the inter-governmental talks.

The rank of representatives could have been a hot button during the working-level contact. In June 2013, the two Koreas planned to hold a ministerial-level dialogue, but it failed to be held after wrangling over the rank.

South Korea had reportedly called for Kim Yang Gon, director of the DPRK's United Front Department, to become a counterpart of South Korean Unification Minister Hong Yong-Pyo.

The latest ministerial-level talks between the two Koreas were held in Pyongyang from Feb. 27 to March 2 in 2007 and in Seoul from May 29 to June 1 in the same year.

The upcoming vice ministers' meeting will serve as a stepping stone to improved inter-Korean relations following a surge in tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Tensions soared in August after landmine blasts in frontline areas, which maimed two South Korean soldiers, and a rare exchange of artillery fire across the border.

Top-level military advisors to South Korean President Park Geun-hye and top DPRK leader Kim Jong Un met to defuse tensions that had pushed the Korean peninsula to the brink of armed conflict.

On Aug. 25, the two Koreas agreed to hold the inter-governmental dialogue in Seoul or Pyongyang at an earliest date possible.

Through the upcoming dialogue, the two Koreas could have opportunity to narrow differences over inter-Korean issues, including regular reunions of Korean families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War and the resumption of tour to Mount Kumgang resort in the southeastern DPRK.