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South Korea's president urges North Korea to return to dialogue

President Park Geun-hye made the statement to experts who have said Pyongyang should be encouraged to open its domestic market to South Korean commercial interests.

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Thursday South Koreans must prepare for unification and that civic exchange is key to getting ready for bringing the countries together. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/2617e21c5664605b56077f71770e8cd4/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Thursday South Koreans must prepare for unification and that civic exchange is key to getting ready for bringing the countries together. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- North Korea's Kim Jong Un has yet to show an interest in giving up nuclear weapons development, but Pyongyang's uncompromising stance is not deterring South Korean President Park Geun-hye from pursuing plans for unification.

Speaking to members of a presidential preparation committee on Thursday, Park said civic exchange is key to getting ready for bringing the countries together, The Korea Herald reported.

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"Recently the two Koreas have expanded civic exchange to fields such as history and culture, athletics, forestry and pest control. The government must be the support behind the expansion of such flows," Park said, according to South Korean outlet News 1.

Park's statements were made before the committee of officials and experts who are leaning toward a pragmatic approach to détente. They have suggested to the president that expanding inter-Korea economic cooperation is key, and that Pyongyang should be encouraged to open its domestic market to South Korean commercial interests.

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South Korea operates a joint factory complex in the North Korean city of Kaesong, a major source of revenue for Pyongyang that continues to operate despite tensions – including most recently the denial of entry of two South Koreans on Tuesday.

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Park also said Pyongyang should keep its promise to engage in high-level talks with the South.

"As agreed on the Aug. 25 inter-Korean talks, I expect to start a discussion on mutual interests of the South and the North and for the future of the Korean peninsula," she said.

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Park's position on North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons development, however, remains unchanged, and Pyongyang has defended its program of building weapons of mass destruction as a "sovereign right." North Korea has shown a lack of willingness to engage in dialogue unless countries recognize its status as a nuclear power.

"Peace is a basic condition for unification," Park said Thursday. "For true peace on the Korean peninsula, the nuclear issue is a problem that must be addressed."

Park said North Korea must uphold the Sept. 19 Joint Statement that was reached in 2005 during the six-party talks.

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"We urge [North Korea] to return to the path of dialogue," Park said.

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