WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- Days after North Korea declined an offer by Seoul to hold high-level talks, South Korea's prime minister called Pyongyang's attitude "regrettable."
Pyongyang cited its continued grievance with Seoul for allowing activists in the South to dispatch anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border as the reason for refusing to participate in the Oct. 30 talks.
Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, speaking to the National Assembly on Monday, said that despite Pyongyang's decision to pull out from the talks, Seoul remains willing to dialogue with the North when it is sincerely ready to do so.
"If North Korea truly wants to achieve peace of the Korean Peninsula and improve inter-Korean relations, we call on Pyongyang to act in accordance," South Korea's Ministry of Unification spokesman Lim Byeong Cheol said in a statement Sunday.
"We (South Korea) should take the initiative in resolving the Korean Peninsula issue," Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae told lawmakers Monday. "For that, dialogue is needed between that South and the North and bilateral ties should be improved."
Seoul has, with leadership from President Park Geun-hye, pushed for unification of the two Koreas. In a now-famous speech delivered in Dresden, Germany, in March, Park said she sees the potential for a "unification bonanza."
At a conference examining Korean unification initiatives last week at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Michael Marshall, a Korea expert with the Global Peace Foundation and Editor Emeritus at UPI, said that unification talks are driven by "the sense that change might come or happen at any point."
"Personally," Marshall offered, "I think it is most likely to come through a collapse in the regime of the North," noting that "The growing feeling is that the regime there is unsustainable."
"Unification will not just be about governments or private investors," Marshall pointed out. "We've stressed that unification will be about the coming together of a separated people. There's a need for popular engagement in the unification process. ... to get people involved through practical action, through civic engagement and NGOs."
That engagement extends beyond the two Koreas, added Dr. Jin Shin, Political Science and Diplomacy Professor at South Korea's Chungnam National University and president of the Institute for Peace Affairs.
"How many countries bordering South Korea and North Korea support unification?" he asked. Korea unification, he said, must take into account the national interests of all parties involved, particularly China.
"China's military can be dispatched within 10 minutes in case relations between North and South Korea break down," underlining the need for South Korea to mitigate China's perception regarding North-South relations. "We have to do some trust building among the countries."
Marshall concurs with that assessment: "It's a matter of cultivating change in perception of where national interests lie," by raising awareness of the advantages unification has on a country's economy and security.
For now, however, "The north so far has not shown any serious interest that they would consistently pursue reunification," noted Marshall.