Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul was to leave for Washington on Sunday on his first trip to the United States since taking office, with the fate of a long-suspended inter-Korean tourism project expected to be among key topics of discussions.
Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul. Yonhap
During the seven-day trip, Kim plans to deliver a keynote address at the Korea Global Forum for Peace, an annual seminar his ministry has hosted in Washington, and meet with senior US officials, congressional leaders and experts.
US Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Biegun is expected to be among the officials Kim plans to meet. Biegun has recently been nominated as deputy secretary of state, the No. 2 job in the State Department.
Kim’s discussions in Washington is expected to focus on the inter-Korean tourism project to North Korea’s Kumgangsan.
The North recently demanded that the South remove all facilities it had built at the mountain resort, saying it would build a brand new resort on its own. The demand was seen as an expression of Pyongyang’s frustration amid few signs the lucrative project will resume anytime soon.
In response, the South asked for working-level talks, but the North turned down the offer. Last week, the North sent an “ultimatum” to Seoul that it would unilaterally remove the South-built facilities unless Seoul tears them down on its own.
Other issues that Kim could discuss in Washington include his recent “Olympics armistice” proposal that calls for the US to suspend joint military exercises with South Korea in exchange for the North suspending missile tests. Kim put forward the idea in a recent Washington Post interview.
Kim’s trip also includes a stop in Los Angeles, where he plans to give a lecture at the University of Southern California and meet American experts on Korea. Kim also plans to hold a meeting with Korean residents there. (Yonhap)