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Summary of inter-Korean news this week

All News 16:00 October 23, 2020

SEOUL, Oct. 23 (Yonhap) -- The following is a summary of inter-Korean news this week.

Unification ministry slashes staff, budget after N.K.'s liaison office demolition

SEOUL, Oct. 19 (Yonhap) -- The unification ministry has cut back on the number of staff at the inter-Korean liaison office and the budget for next year, after North Korea blew up the office building in June, an opposition lawmaker said Monday.

The ministry has slashed its budget for the liaison office next year to 310 million Korean won (US$270,000), from 6.41 billion won allocated for this year, Rep. Cho Tae-yong of the main opposition People Power Party said, citing data from the ministry.

The number of staff members at the now-demolished office in the North's border city of Kaesong was reduced to the minimum level at 15 officials from the previous 29.

Tours to inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom to resume early next month

SEOUL, Oct. 19 (Yonhap) -- A tour program to the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom will resume early next month after more than a year of suspension caused by the African swine fever, the unification ministry said Monday.

The reopening comes as there have been no recent reports of the animal disease in Paju, the border city to which the village belongs, with the local authorities planning thorough precautions to fend off potential transmissions from other areas.

The tours to the Joint Security Area (JSA) and other sites inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) are scheduled to begin on a limited basis on Nov. 4, and their official resumption will come two days later, the ministry said.

48 N. Koreans defected to South Korea in this year's 3rd quarter

SEOUL, Oct. 21 (Yonhap) -- A total of 48 North Korean defectors arrived in South Korea during the third quarter of this year, the unification ministry said Wednesday.

The figure, including 23 males and 25 females, is a significant drop from the 226 North Koreans that defected in the same period last year.

The sharp decline appears to reflect challenges in moving across borders due to the COVID-19. North Korea has maintained tight border controls since early this year as part of antivirus efforts.

Minister renews calls for inter-Korean cooperation in railway linking, tourism

SEOUL, Oct. 21 (Yonhap) -- Unification Minister Lee In-young vowed Wednesday to push ahead with inter-Korean cooperation projects to reconnect railways and allow for travel to North Korea, saying that it is the way that the two Koreas should go no matter what.

Lee made the remark during a speech at a forum of the Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU), stressing the need to seek practical inter-Korean cooperation amid several challenges.

"We are faced with the task of moving the U.S.-North Korea nuclear talks forward through inter-Korean trust, allowing individuals to travel to North Korea and reconnecting and modernizing railways and roads as agreed upon by the leaders of the two Koreas," he said.

S. Korea to keep seeking dialogue with N. Korea over slain official: minister

SEOUL, Oct. 23 (Yonhap) -- Unification Minister Lee In-young said Friday that South Korea will keep seeking "dialogue" with North Korea to figure out exactly what happened to a South Korean official shot and killed by the North last month.

Lee made the remark during a parliamentary audit session in response to a lawmaker's question as to how the government will draw cooperation from the North on the deadly incident at a time when Pyongyang remains unresponsive to Seoul's calls for a joint probe.

"We will have to find a method to smoothly resolve the issue through dialogue," Lee said.

The 47-year-old official was fatally shot by the North Korean military on Sept. 22 while adrift in North Korean waters. South Korea earlier claimed that North Korean soldiers shot him dead and burned his body.

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