Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae and Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se were responding to a recent statement by Nam Jae-joon, the head of intelligence operations in South Korea, who predicted reunification could come as early as 2015. Ryoo said it is "not easy to set a time frame."
Sixty years after the Korean War ended in a stalemate, South Korea has Asia's fourth-biggest economy while North Korea, which lost subsidies with the collapse of the Soviet Union, is an impoverished country. Reunification is the official goal of both governments, but officials in Pyongyang and Seoul appear to have different visions of a unified Korea.
Yun said South Korean embassies and consulates have been told to be on the lookout for North Korean defectors following the Dec. 12 execution of Jang Song Thaek, uncle of Kim Jong Un, the current North Korean leader, for treason, a sign of a possible purge.