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Summary of inter-Korean news this week

All News 16:00 January 22, 2021

SEOUL, Jan. 22 (Yonhap) -- The following is a summary of inter-Korean news this week.

S. Korea ready to talk any issues with N. Korea to ease tensions: defense ministry

SEOUL, Jan. 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is ready to discuss any issues with North Korea via military channels to ease cross-border tensions, the defense ministry said Tuesday.

Ministry spokesperson Boo Seung-chan made the remark a day after President Moon Jae-in said that the two Koreas can discuss joint military exercises between Seoul and Washington if necessary through a joint military committee as agreed upon in 2018.

"Our military can discuss any issues with North Korea through military talks, including the inter-Korean military joint committee meeting, to ease military tensions between the two Koreas," Boo said in a regular briefing.

Cabinet passes revision bill on inter-Korean exchanges aimed at facilitating cooperation

SEOUL, Jan. 19 (Yonhap) -- The government on Tuesday approved a proposal for the revision of its inter-Korean exchange act that will allow cross-border projects to receive financial support in case of their suspension, the unification ministry said.

The revision to the South-North Exchange and Cooperation Act, passed in a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, also requires Cabinet approval when an exchange project is at risk of being suspended.

The need for such support has been raised since Seoul decided in 2016 to abruptly halt the operation of a joint industrial complex in the North's border town of Kaesong amid chilled cross-border ties. The suspension caused losses to South Korean companies operating there.

S. Korea's Buddhist leader vows to seek inter-Korean exchanges through COVID-19 relief

SEOUL, Jan. 19 (Yonhap) -- The leader of the Jogye Order, South Korea's largest Buddhist sect, said Tuesday that he will strive to promote inter-Korean religious exchanges this year by helping the North's battle against the novel coronavirus.

"We will closely confer with our North Korean counterpart on projects to facilitate exchanges and cooperation between the Buddhist communities of the two Koreas," Ven. Wonhaeng, president of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, said in an online press conference. "I'll seek ways to promote peace and coprosperity on the Korean Peninsula."

As part of his plans, Jogye Order will support the sending of relief and sanitary goods for COVID-19 prevention to North Korea and launch a joint project to restore temples ruined during the 1950-53 Korean War.

Number of N.K. defectors plunges in 2020 amid North's border closure

SEOUL, Jan. 20 (Yonhap) -- The number of North Koreans defecting to South Korea dropped sharply last year apparently due to the North's border closure to prevent an outbreak of the coronavirus, government data showed Wednesday.

According to the data provided by the unification ministry, a total of 229 North Koreans settled down in South Korea last year. The number was far fewer than the 1,047 tallied a year earlier and 1,137 registered in 2018.

During the first quarter, 135 North Koreans defected to the South. The figures in the second, third and fourth quarters dropped to 12, 48 and 34, respectively.

Unification minister vows to restart Korea peace process in cooperation with Biden administration

SEOUL, Jan. 21 (Yonhap) -- Unification Minister Lee In-young said Thursday he will seek to advance the Korean Peninsula peace process and come up with realistic solutions for North Korean denuclearization in cooperation with the new U.S. administration.

Lee made the remark during a report to President Moon Jae-in about the ministry's policy plans and goals for this year, just hours after new U.S. President Joe Biden was sworn in.

During the report, Lee laid out the ministry's five main tasks for this year, including its plans on restoring communication lines with the North and seeking ways to improve inter-Korean relations.

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