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Summary of inter-Korean news this week

All News 16:00 January 31, 2020

SEOUL, Jan. 31 (Yonhap) -- The following is a summary of inter-Korean news this week.

FM could meet with Pompeo in Munich next month

SEOUL, Jan. 27 (Yonhap) -- Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha is considering traveling to Germany next month for an international security conference, officials said Monday, raising the possibility she could meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss Seoul's push for greater exchanges with North Korea.

Kang's attendance at the Munich Security Conference set for Feb. 14-16 is expected to naturally lead to a one-on-one meeting with Pompeo, as the top American diplomat is also expected to attend the conference together with Defense Secretary Mark Esper and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi could also attend the conference, raising the possibility of the top diplomats from South Korea, the U.S. and Japan holding a trilateral session just as they did in San Francisco earlier this month.

1,047 N.K. defectors arrive in S. Korea last year, lowest in 18 years

SEOUL, Jan. 27 (Yonhap) -- A total of 1,047 North Korean defectors arrived in South Korea last year, the lowest number in 18 years, according to data from the unification ministry on Monday.

The total comprises 202 males and 845 females. By quarter, 229 arrived in the first three months of the year, 320 in the second quarter, 226 in the third and the remaining 272 in the fourth, according to the data.

The number of defectors arriving in the South rose after 2000 before peaking in 2009 at 2,914 people. Since current leader Kim Jong-un took power following the death of his father in late 2011, between 1,100 and 1,500 defectors have arrived in the South annually.

PyeongChang to host peace forum next month

SEOUL, Jan. 28 (Yonhap) -- PyeongChang, the host of the 2018 Winter Olympics, is set to hold a global forum on peace next month as part of efforts to build on the legacy of the sports event, organizers said Tuesday.

The three-day PyeongChang Peace Forum will kick off at Alpensia Convention Center in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, 180 kilometers east of Seoul, on Feb. 9, taking "Action Plan: End the Korean War" as its topic, according to organizers.

Former U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will deliver a keynote speech and will then take part in a discussion along with ex-Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland and East Timor's ex-President Jose Ramos Horta.

S. Koreans withdraw from liaison office in N.K. amid new coronavirus fears

SEOUL, Jan. 30 (Yonhap) -- All South Koreans working at the inter-Korean liaison office in the North's border town of Kaesong returned home Thursday after the two Koreas agreed to temporarily shut down the office amid concerns over the spread of a new strain of coronavirus, the unification ministry said.

The shutdown decision was made during a meeting at the office earlier in the day following South and North Korea's stepped-up efforts to prevent the spread of the deadly illness, which originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

The two Koreas will establish new telephone and fax lines to continue communications between Seoul and Pyongyang despite the closure, which will continue until the threat posed by the virus is "completely eased," the ministry said.

N. Korea says will suspend plan to remove Mt. Kumgang facilities due to coronavirus fear

SEOUL, Jan. 31 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has suspended its plan to remove South Korean-built facilities at the Mount Kumgang resort on its east coast as part of efforts to prevent the spread of a new strain of coronavirus, the unification ministry said Friday.

Pyongyang notified Seoul of the decision Thursday through a telephone line they opened after the two Koreas agreed to temporarily shut down their joint liaison office in the North's border town of Kaesong earlier in the day until the threat from the virus is "completely eased."

"We need additional consultations with regard to when we resume relevant discussions," the ministry's acting spokesperson, Yoh Sang-key, told a regular press briefing.

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