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S. Korea rejects civic group's request for contact with N. Koreans

All Headlines 14:20 February 06, 2017

SEOUL, Feb. 6 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's unification ministry on Monday expressed its opposition to a local civic group's push to contact North Koreans in China this week, citing inter-Korean tensions.

The government has rejected a plan by the group to meet with its North Korean counterparts in Shenyang on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss ways to promote exchanges between the two Koreas.

Seoul's unification ministry said unauthorized contact with North Koreans will entail a fine under the law on inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation.

"(We) are facing a grave security situation as North Korea has continued to threaten and make provocative acts," Jeong Joon-hee, a ministry spokesman, told a regular press briefing. "The government does not see such inter-Korean civilian exchanges as proper against this backdrop."

Seoul has suspended almost all inter-Korean exchanges and South Koreans' visits to North Korea since North Korea's fourth nuclear test in January last year.

Any trip to the North requires the Seoul government's approval, as well as the North's consent. The sides still technically remain in a state of war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

Despite Seoul's objection, the South Korean Committee for the Joint Implementation of the June 15 Summit Declaration said it plans to send officials to the Shenyang conference.

Topics for the meeting will include holding football matches for teams from the labor unions of the two countries and ways to promote inter-Korean civilian exchanges, the group said.

The joint declaration that outlines inter-Korean reconciliation was the outcome of the June 2000 summit between former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, the late father of the current leader Kim Jong-un.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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