SEOUL: On the eve of what are scheduled to be the first high-level talks between North and South Korea for six years, it was still unclear Tuesday exactly who would be doing the talking.
As of midday (0300 GMT), South Korea was still waiting for the North to send the names of its negotiating team who will cross the land border on Wednesday and drive to the talks at the Grand Hilton hotel in Seoul.
“We have no idea when the North will convey their list of delegates,” a spokesman from Seoul’s Unification Ministry told AFP.
“We’ve been waiting since early this morning,” the spokesman said.
After months of elevated military tensions that triggered dramatic threats of nuclear war, it is enough for many on the Korean peninsula and beyond that the two Koreas are holding any sort of dialogue at all.
But if both sides are sincere about making tangible progress, then their delegations need to be headed by someone with the authority to negotiate and make decisions.
South Korea had wanted the two-day talks to be between its pointman on North Korea, Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-Jae, and his counterpart in Pyongyang, Kim Yang-Gon.
A dialogue at that ministerial level has not been held since 2007.
But North Korea refused, and the two sides ended up agreeing to field government officials with some ill-defined responsibility for inter-Korean affairs.
Once the North has named its chief representative, the South side will appoint an official of equal stature to lead its delegation.
The agenda is supposed to focus on a pair of suspended joint commercial projects, including the Kaesong industrial complex that North Korea effectively closed in April at the height of the recent tensions.
South Korean President Park Geun-Hye said Tuesday she hoped the talks would mark a “first step” in a trust-building process to bring some permanent level of peace and stability to the Korean peninsula.