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S. Korea spurns Pyongyang's offer to hold joint June 15 event

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

SEOUL, May 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Monday rejected a proposal by the North to host a joint gathering to mark the 13th anniversary of the South-North Joint Declaration set for June 15.

The Ministry of Unification said in a statement that Pyongyang should not try to stir internal discord within South Korea by calling for a joint gathering involving private organizations that do not have the authority to resolve outstanding issues that can only be handled at the government level.

The June 15 declaration reached at the historic 2000 summit meeting between late South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il kicked off a period of rapprochement between the two countries that saw large scale bilateral cooperation and the expansion of economic ties.

"Seoul cannot accept plans to arrange a 'political event' that can stir friction within South Korea, and the government has decided to effectively ban (its citizens from participating in) the event," ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk said in a news conference. The North had only invited progressive civic organizations and religious groups in the South that have generally held negative views against Seoul's North Korean policies.

He then called on the North to accept the South's May 14 proposal to hold a working-level meeting, pointing out that Seoul was open to discuss all matters if a meeting had been held.

The official said that the North's position of persistently ignoring calls for direct talks between officials and only striving to make contact with civilian groups can only be viewed with suspicion.

"If the North really seeks better cross-border relations it should talk directly with Seoul to build trust instead of obsessing about the joint event with private groups," the spokesman claimed.

Kim said that what is needed at present is for the North to take steps to restore emergency hotlines that have been cut and engage in talks to normalize operations at the inter-Korea industrial complex in Kaesong.

"The North should engage in dialogue to allow South Korean companies to bring back production materials and finished goods from Kaesong," he said.

The Kaesong complex, the crowning achievement of the 2000 summit, was the last remaining joint venture linking the two Koreas. All operations at the border town, located in the North, have been suspended since early April, after Pyongyang ordered all of its 53,000 laborers not to report to work.

The official, meanwhile, said statements made by the North over the weekend that directly mentioned South Korean President Park Geun-hye by name and attacked her by using harsh language are very regrettable and an embarrassing development. Both the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea and the powerful National Defense Commission lashed out at Park.

"If the North truly wants improvements in inter-Korean relations, it should immediately desist from making derogatory comments and exercise restraint," he stressed.

The official said that despite the recent visit by a special envoy to China, who called for the resumption of the six-party talks, Seoul's position remains unchanged.

Choe Ryong-hae, the director of the military General Political Bureau, visited Beijing last week and met with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"What is important is real action," he said, adding that Seoul hopes the meeting between Choe and Xi will get the North to respect the wishes of the international community that wants a nuclear free Korean Peninsula.

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