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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 313 (May 15, 2014)

All Headlines 09:57 May 15, 2014

INTER-KOREAN RELATIONS

Businessman fined 1 mln won over rail project in N. Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea has fined a businessman 1 million won (US$977) for making an unauthorized contact with North Koreans over a project to build a high-speed railway and a parallel road in North Korea, an official said on May 13.

The unification ministry imposed the administrative penalties in March on the businessman, identified only by his last name Kim, for meeting with North Koreans in China in December for the project, the ministry official said.

South Koreans are required to win the government's approval before a meeting with North Koreans and their trip to the communist neighbor. The two Koreas still technically remain in a state of war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

Kim has encouraged local companies to join a project to build a railway and a road connecting Kaesong near the border with South Korea to North Korea's northwestern city of Sinuiju via Pyongyang.

In December, an opposition lawmaker claimed that North Korea and China had agreed to build a high-speed railway and a road parallel to it that link the three North Korean cities.

Still, the ministry downplayed the possibility of local companies participating in the project.

The ministry said it is nearly impossible for South Korean firms to make massive investments in North Korea due to sanctions imposed by Seoul on Pyongyang in 2010 following a deadly sinking of a South Korean warship by the North.

The North has refused to take responsibility for the sinking of the warship, which claimed 46 South Korean sailors' lives.

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Seoul eyes conferences to promote Northeast Asia peace initiative

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea is seeking to hold two international conferences in October as part of efforts to implement President Park Geun-hye's policy for promoting peace in Northeast Asia, Seoul's foreign ministry said on May 12.

Seoul is pushing to hold a two-day meeting to be attended by government and private experts to exchange views on such soft issues as the environment, energy and disaster relief, the ministry said.

Another conference, tentatively named Northeast Asia Peace-Promoting Cooperative Meeting, will be opened following the forum with the participation of government officials.

The meetings will be held in an effort to implement Park's "Northeast Asia peace and cooperation initiative," according to government officials.

The vision calls for countries in the region to build trust through nonpolitical cooperation such as in environmental issues before coping with political and security matters.

The government plans to invite officials from the U.S., China, Japan, Russia, North Korea and Mongolia, but it is not clear whether North Korea would join the meeting, according to ministry officials. Those from Southeast Asian countries and the European Union are likely to join the meetings as observers.

The government will seek to hold foreign-ministerial-level meetings next year if this year's conferences help to set the stage for opening higher-level meetings, they said.
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