Park offers broader exchanges with N. Korea

Park offers broader exchanges with N. Korea
President Park Geun-hye delivers a speech at the Dresden University of Technology in Dresden, Germany, Friday.

SOUTH KOREA - President Park Geun-hye on Friday proposed the establishment of inter-Korean cooperative offices and pledged to expand humanitarian, financial and infrastructure support for the North as part of measures to lay the foundation for an eventual reunification.

In an address in the former East German city of Dresden, she laid out a three-point agenda to "break down the barriers" across the border.

Just as citizens of the two Germanys were allowed to visit each other before unification, the two Koreas should increase exchanges including regular reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, Park said.

She proposed installing "inter-Korean exchange and cooperation offices" in Seoul and Pyongyang to push for joint projects in fields such as education, economy and public administration.

"We will encourage exchanges in historical research and preservation, culture and the arts, and sports, all of which could promote genuine people-to-people contact, rather than seek politically-motivated projects or promotional events," Park said.

"Should North Korea so desire, we would be happy to partner with the international community to share our experience in economic management and developing special economic zones, and to provide systematic education and training opportunities relating to finance, tax administration and statistics." As a new assistance programme, Seoul is working with the UN to begin the so-called "1,000 days project" to provide health care to pregnant women until their children turn 2 years old, Park said.

On the business front, the president offered to Pyongyang to build a joint agricultural complex to develop farming, stockbreeding and forestry in regions suffering from sluggish output and desertification.

She also expressed hopes for South Korean firms' participation in a project to develop a railway between North Korea and Russia and a North Korean port, while vowing to foster the trilateral economic partnership between the two Koreas and China.

"South Korea could invest in infrastructure-building projects where possible, such as in transportation and telecommunication. Should North Korea allow South Korea to develop its natural resources, the benefits would accrue to both halves of the peninsula," Park said.

"This would organically combine South Korean capital and technology with North Korean resources and labour and redound to the eventual formation of an economic community on the Korean Peninsula."

For all the plans to make headway, however, Pyongyang must abandon its nuclear ambition and return to the stalled six-nation denuclearization forum with a "sincere willingness," Park said.

She also expressed her willingness to pursue a Northeast Asian multilateral security regime to address the communist state's security concerns by scaling up her initiative to promote regional peace and cooperation.

"Should North Korea make the strategic decision to forgo its nuclear programme, South Korea would correspondingly be the first to offer its active support, including for its much needed membership in international financial institutions and attracting international investments," Park said.

"If deemed necessary, we can seek to create a Northeast Asia Development Bank with regional neighbours to spur economic development in North Korea and in surrounding areas."

The event wrapped up Park's four-day state visit, during which she and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed to work together to help Seoul chart a path to its own unification, building on the lessons from the European country.

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