Prime Minister Kang Young-hoon proposed direct trade with North Korea and a visitor exchange involving the elderly Tuesday on the eve of the second round of talks with his northern counterpart, Yon Hyong-muk.
Accompanied by six other delegates, 33 support personnel and a 50-member official press corps, Kang arrived in Pyongyang about 1:20 p.m. on the first trip to North Korea by a South Korean prime minister.Kang said on arrival that it is deplorable and frustrating that only South and North Korea are left split while other divided nations are united. But he said the meetings were a positive step toward reunification.
"Differences in ideology and system between the two parts of Korea must no longer form a barrier dividing the people. The first thing to do to demolish the barrier of national division and become one as soon as possible is to restore Korean ethnic community," he said.
The Pyongyang talks are the second round of meetings between Korean prime ministers that opened in Seoul on Sept. 4 in pursuit of rapprochement of the two Koreas divided at the end of World War II.
The prime ministers will meet for talks on Wednesday and Thursday when Kang will also pay a call on North Korean President Kim Il-sung to relay a message from South Korean President Roh Tae-woo.
There was no official meeting Tuesday, but at a dinner hosted by the North Korean prime minister in the evening, Kang proposed that the two sides exchange hometown visitors and engage in direct trade that would be beneficial to both.
"The most urgent issue facing us is to enable the members of dispersed families to reunite with their long separated loved ones," Kang said.