(ATTN: RECASTS headline, throughout with Lee's remarks)
By Koh Byung-joon
SEOUL, Sept. 16 (Yonhap) -- Unification Minister Lee In-young called Wednesday for North Korea to implement agreements the leaders of the two Koreas reached during their 2018 summit talks and move forward the stalled inter-Korean relations.
Lee made the appeal during his first trip to the truce village of Panmunjom since his inauguration in July, also expressing hope for reopening of severed communication lines and resumption of "open-minded" dialogue between the two Koreas as soon as possible.
Lee's trip came days ahead of the second anniversary of a summit agreement signed between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang on Sept. 19, 2018, to reduce tensions and bolster cooperation.
"The promise should be fulfilled and agreements can be completed through implementation," Lee said during a brief meeting with reporters at Panmunjom. "In order to complete the determination of the leaders of the two sides and restart the time for the South and the North, joint efforts between the two Koreas should continue to move forward."
"For the implementation of South-North joint declarations, the government will start with a small approach first in the humanitarian and other exchange and cooperation areas that the two Koreas could start right away," he added. "By starting like that, we intend to turn it into the time for trust and faith."
President Moon and North Korean leader Kim held three summit talks in 2018 and agreed to reduce tensions and increase cooperation. The two Koreas also opened a joint liaison office in the North's border town of Kaesong in the same year to facilitate communications on cooperative projects.
Inter-Korean relations, however, have failed to move forward since a no-deal summit between the North and the United States in February last year. Many of the summit agreements between the two Koreas have been put on hold ever since.
The ties chilled further recently after North Korea cut off inter-Korean communication lines and blew up the liaison office in anger over the sending of anti-Pyongyang leaflets from the South.
"I hope that consultation channels, including the joint liaison office, will be normalized so that we can resume our open-minded dialogue at an early date," the minister said.
He said that inter-Korean cooperation in the humanitarian area, including joint efforts related to public health, the coronavirus and climate change, should be pursued through communication with Washington, saying such moves could help build trust among the three countries.
In particular, he voiced hope for the two Koreas to hold a "small-scale" reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War at the truce village of Panmunjom as soon as concerns over the coronavirus pandemic ease.
The two Koreas last held face-to-face reunions of war-torn families in August 2018 at the Mount Kumgang resort on the North's east coast amid summit-created rapprochement, but no subsequent unions have been held ever since amid strained ties.
Push to barter S. Korean sugar for N.K. liquor raises both hopes, concerns
Remarks by N.K. leader's sister dim prospects of Trump-Kim meeting before Nov. U.S. election
N.K. seeks to distract from domestic hardships with liaison office demolition: experts
N. Korea voices frustration over ties, seeks to close ranks through S. Korea bashing: experts
Landslide victory likely to strengthen Moon's foreign policy hand