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Unification ministry mulls meeting with N. Korea defectors amid controversy

All Headlines 11:21 October 17, 2018

SEOUL, Oct. 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's unification minister is considering meeting with a group of North Korean defectors, a ministry official said Wednesday, amid a backlash from his controversial decision to exclude a defector-turned-journalist from covering recent inter-Korean talks.

"A review (for the meeting) is under way among relevant offices," Baik Tae-hyun, ministry spokesman, told a regular press briefing. "Details on the schedule and others have not been determined. ... We will let you know if things are finalized."

Earlier, a local media reported that Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon plans to hold a meeting with North Korean defectors in an effort to assuage protests over his recent decision to exclude a reporter of the conservative Chosun Ilbo daily newspaper from pool reporters covering Monday's inter-Korean talks due to the fact that he is a North Korean defector.

The ministry explained the decision was made in consideration of various factors, including the "confined" space for the inter-Korean talks and the fact that the defector-turned-journalist is well known to North Korea.

The decision was informed to the ministry's press corps just hours before the pool reporters were sent to the truce village of Panmunjom, the venue for the talks. The pool reporters were chosen in accordance with the press corps' rules.

Controversy has been growing ever since over its possible violation of freedom of the press and possible discrimination against North Korean defectors in South Korea.

The press corps issued a statement, claiming that the exclusion is "inappropriate" and represents a "serious violation" of freedom of the press. It asked for Cho's apology and promise to prevent such an incident from happening again.

Cho later expressed regrets but apparently defended his decision, saying that it was based on consultation among relevant government agencies and that he could make a similar decision should he face a similar situation going forward.


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