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The BBC's Caroline Gluck
"They are already discussing practical steps to bring their nations closer together"
 real 56k

Monday, 31 July, 2000, 11:43 GMT 12:43 UK
Koreas reach breakthrough deal
North and South Korean officials
Shake on it! North and South reach their deal
North and South Korea have agreed to reopen border liaison offices and resume cross-border train services.

The breakthrough comes on the second day of talks in the South Korean capital, Seoul, between delegations from the two halves of the divided peninsula.

They have agreed to reconnect a rail line from Seoul to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, and then on to the city of Sinuiju, close to the border with China.

Although South Koreans will not be able to enter the North, they hope to get a trade link into Europe via Russia's trans-Siberian railway.

The liaison offices in the village of Panmunjom - the only crossing point along the heavily-fortified demilitarised zone - will reopen on 15 August, the anniversary of the end of Japanese colonial rule.


The two sides are organising a joint programme of events during a National Reconciliation Week in mid-August, which will be marked with cross-border family visits.

Agreements so far
Train link between North and South
Cross-border family reunions
Liaison offices on border
Ministerial talks in August
"The first step we've taken is very good," said chief North Korean delegate, Jon Kum-jin.

"We've demonstrated that if we muster our strength and wisdom, we can make a big achievement."

South Korea's chief negotiator, Park Jae-kyu, said his government would "make its utmost efforts to carry through the historic agreements".

The offices in Panmunjom were set up in 1992 during an earlier attempt at detente but the project was abandoned four years later after relations worsened again.

The decision to reconnect the railway line across the border was announced as talks ended and the five North Korean delegates went to pay a courtesy call on the South's President, Kim Dae-jung.


The two days of talks follow the landmark meeting in June between President Kim and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il.

Park Jae-kyu and Jon Kum-jin
Head of the South Korean team Park Jae-kyu (left) with North Korean head Jon Kum-jin
The two sides also agreed to promote the reunion of pro-North Korea residents in Japan with South Korean relatives whom they have not seen for more than 40 years.

Members of a pro-North Korea federation of ethnic Korean residents in Japan have been officially barred from visiting South Korea, but many have made private visits without official harassment.

The countries are technically still at war, as their three-year conflict ended in 1953 in an armed truce and not a peace treaty.

At their June summit, the two leaders pledged to try to turn half a century of distrust and confrontation into a new era of co-operation.

These inter-ministerial level talks, the first of their kind in eight years, represent the first step in that approach.

The two sides announced they would hold new rounds of ministerial-level talks from 29-31 August in Pyongyang.

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See also:

29 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
North Koreans break ice in South
28 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
US woos N Korea
26 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
North Korea in from the cold
27 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Hope for divided Korean families
19 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: North Korea sets its price
15 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Korea: No going back
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