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Pyongyang official calls for one single U.N. seat for Koreas

UNITED NATIONS -- One day after joining the United Nations as separate nations, North Korea Wednesday asked South Korea to share one single seat in the U.N. General Assembly.

The two countries were admitted as full members when the assembly opened its 1991 session Tuesday. Their flags were raised in front of the U.N. headquarters and the two delegations took separate seats in the assembly hall.

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But North Korean First Deputy Foreign Minister Kang Sok Ju invited the foreign minister of South Korea, Lee Sang Ock, to meet with him to discuss the possibility of merging the two delegations.

'We are happy with the U.N. membership, but I don't believe we have achieved our goal' of reuniting the two countries on the Korean peninsula, which were divided since 1945, Kang said.

'Our purpose is to demonstrate that Korea is one because the two delegations now give the impression that Korea is divided,' Kang said. 'We called for consultations with the South Korean foreign minister to have a joint seat.'

Kang pointed out that the two countries have had joint teams to compete in world sports events such as soccer and table tennis. The teams had been using one single flag with the map of the Korean peninsula and one folk song to replace their national anthems.

Kang said the single seat in the General Assembly will bear only one name: Korea, and one flag will represent the two countries at the United Nations. Before their admission, the two Koreas had observer status, which allowed them to attend meetings without the right to vote.

There was no immediate comment from Lee or high ranking South Korean officials in New York. Lee and the South Korean ambassadors to the United Nations and the United States will leave Thursday for Seattle to greet their president, Roh Tae Woo, who will attend the General Assembly session next Tuesday.

But the South Korean U.N. mission's spokesman, Jong Hwan Suh, said proposals by North Korea for dialogue are always welcomed, but to merge the two delegations one day after their admission is 'unpractical and unworkable.'

Suh said the two delegations would have to meet for substantial discussions to solve gradually their differences and work out confidence-building measures.

North Korea had opposed separate membership for the two parts and insisted that they enter the United Nations only after reunification.

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