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South Korea presidential candidate says he would meet with Kim Jong Un

By
Elizabeth Shim
The North Korean side of the border as seen from Paju, a South Korean border city north of Seoul. A South Korean presidential candidate said Tuesday he would reopen communication channels with Pyongyang to reopen Kaesong, a jointly operated factory park that closed in February. Photo by Yonhap/UPI
The North Korean side of the border as seen from Paju, a South Korean border city north of Seoul. A South Korean presidential candidate said Tuesday he would reopen communication channels with Pyongyang to reopen Kaesong, a jointly operated factory park that closed in February. Photo by Yonhap/UPI

SEOUL, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- A South Korean presidential candidate noted for his candid populist views says he would be willing to meet with North Korea's Kim Jong Un if elected.

Lee Jae-myung, the mayor of a city outside Seoul, told reporters Tuesday he would meet with Kim to discuss the resumption of a jointly operated factory park in Kaesong, North Korea, South Korean news service Newsis reported.

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"Of course I would meet with [Kim]," Lee said. "North Korea is a hostile country, realistically speaking, but also is a party we must co-exist with and [eventually] unify."

Lee criticized current Seoul policies that have culminated in the shutdown of official channels of dialogue, developments that have placed "peaceful unification further out of reach."

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"In this situation new leaders must quickly meet, and advance policies that create win-win circumstances for all," the candidate said.

Lee was particularly reproachful of a South Korean government decision to shutter the Kaesong Industrial Complex and the losses incurred by South Korean businessmen as a result of the shutdown.

"The closure of [Kaesong] was clearly a violation of current law. The president who undertook this illegal act should pay out compensation," Lee said.

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The current mayor added the measure did not enhance national security and that "negotiations must start" to ease inter-Korea tensions.

Lee also said his approach to North Korea is not a "pro-North Korea stance," and that such a position would for him be "impossible."

Lee is currently the third-most popular candidate. According to a South Korean poll, Lee has an approval rating of 12.3 percent, ranking behind former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who stands at 23.3 percent, and opposition party candidate Moon Jae-in, who is nearly tied with Ban at 23.1 percent.

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