South Korean Prime Minister Lho Shin Yong said yesterday that the results of nearly a year of renewed South-North dialogue have been "discouraging" and seem to indicate that North Korea is "not interested in producing any tangible results out of the talks."
Lho, in Washington to confer with Vice President Bush, Secretary of State George P. Shultz and other officials, said in an interview that despite a lack of progress, "there is no other way but to talk" with North Korea and pledged that South Korea "will be patient."
Further meetings of South-North committees on economic affairs and humanitarian issues are scheduled for late November, just about one year after the resumption of the dialogue between the two parts of the bitterly divided peninsula last Nov. 15.
Lho, a career diplomat who served as foreign minister and chief of the national intelligence agency before becoming prime minister in February, said North Korea had five objectives in resuming the long-dormant dialogue.
They were: recovering from the "very big blow" to North Korea's reputation from the terrorist blast that killed 17 South Korean officials in October 1983; luring foreign capital to cope with "chronic economic difficulties"; convincing Washington of its peaceful intentions to encourage withdrawal of U.S. military forces from the South; relaxing the anticommunist posture of South Korea, and placating China's demands for relaxation of tension on the peninsula.
Lho said his country had carefully noted the State Department action in permitting two North Korean scholars, Choe Jin Hyok and Kim Chang Il, to attend an Asian studies conference here last weekend.
The Reagan administration explained that granting visas to North Korean scholars, which had not been done before, "has nothing to do with official and direct contact between Pyongyang and Washington," Lho said.
Nonetheless, he expressed concern that North Korea would see the action as "a small hole in the door of the United States" that could substitute for the pursuit of accords with the South.
Last week in New York Lho had a brief encounter at a diplomatic dinner with North Korean Vice President Park Sung Chul, without substantive results. Lho denied a North Korean charge that he had rebuffed a bid for a full-scale meeting with Park, saying that a session had been persistently proposed by Pyongyang's representatives for a time that could not be fit into his schedule. Lho and Park were at the United Nations' 40th anniversary celebration as special envoys of their governments.
Lho was unusually taciturn when asked about press reports of an exchange of high-level secret visits involving former North Korean foreign minister Ho Dam and South Korean intelligence chief Chang Se Dong. "My government has denied it and North Korea has denied it," is all Lho would say.
Concerning internal matters, Lho said his government is committed to the peaceful transfer of power when President Chun Doo Hwan's term expires in 1988. This would be the first peaceful transfer of power in the 40 years of South Korea's existence, Lho said, and reflects "the real aspirations of 40 million Koreans."
The prime minister belittled the argument of the political opposition that the 1988 Seoul Olympics could be jeopardized by internal instability if the constitution is not changed to permit direct election of Chun's successor. Such a threat is unacceptable "in a democratic society," Lho said.