President Choi Kyu Hah announced today that South Korea will soon respond positively to the latest North Korean proposal to open talks on reunifying the two countries.
Choi gave no details, but his statement confirmed reports that the two Koreans will resume talks in the near future.
The first official meeting will probably be between South Korean Prime Minister Shin Hyon Hwack and his North Korean counterpart, Li Jong Ok, who sent a letter last week that suddenly reopened prospects of reviving negotiations on unification. Such a meeting would be the highest level discussion on ideas for reunifying the divided peninsula since before the three-year Korean conflict broke out in 1950 following a North Korean invasion of the South. The war ended in truce in 1953, but the two nations have never signed a treaty.
An official meeting would also be the first step in more than six years toward a dialogue for reunification. In 1973 the first unification talks broke down. Representatives of the two countries held preliminary talks that were highly publicized last year.
Choi told a news conference this morning that he regards the week-old proposal as an acceptance of the South's traditional position of holding talks directly between officials of the two countries.
Other South Korean officials were also positive and said it represents the first time the North officially has recognized South Korea as a legal government.
They also said the North appears to be acting in haste and apparently feels some urgency in getting official talks underway.
South Korea officials speculated that an initial meeting might be used to arrange a summit conference between President Choi and the North Korean chief of state, Kim IL Sung.
The North has said it would meet either at Seoul, Pyongyang, the truce village of Panmunjom at the demilitarized zone or in a third country.
The Korean peninsula has been divided since the end of World War II.
Recent efforts to revive unification talks have floundered because the North has refused to recognize the South as an independent country and has insisted that the discussion take place only between private parties and social groups from both nations.