Unification minister says inter-Korean relations not hopeless

SEOUL, Oct. 25 (Yonhap) -- There is no need to be pessimistic about inter-Korean relations despite them being strained following the North's postponement of the family reunions event for people separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, Seoul's unification minister said Friday.

Giving a special lecture at the general meeting of the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation, Ryoo Kihl-jae said there is no reason to dwell too much on the ups and downs in Seoul-Pyongyang relations.

He said past experience has shown that even when things are not going well, such developments did not mean things are hopeless.

"If we opted to do as the North demanded, relations could improve rapidly, but there is a need to carefully check if such developments would translate into real gains," he said.

The policymaker said that Seoul does not want "easy gains" and is striving for cross-border relations to really leap forward.

He then said that for the inter-Korean factory park at Kaesong to truly mature, a resolution must be reached on the North's nuclear weapons development program.

The official said that besides the nuclear issue, lingering animosity between the two Koreas is holding back growth of the Kaesong Industrial Complex. The North frequently lashes out at Seoul for its policies and verbally attacks President Park Geun-hye.

"The history of Kaesong is not satisfactory, and it's comparable to an egg placed on a flat surface that's ready to fall off at any moment," the policymaker said, hinting that there is still a long way to go on the joint business project.

Kaesong lauded as the crowning achievement of the 2000 summit between the leaders of the two Koreas was shut down for over five months from early April onwards by the North amid a spike in tension on the Korean Peninsula.

After long, drawn-out negotiations, it was reopened again on Sept. 16, yet operations remain at around 80 percent of total capacity, according to government estimates.

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