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Monday, 11 September, 2000, 19:17 GMT 20:17 UK
New steps towards Korean thaw
Kim Yong-sun [R} and South Korean Deputy Unification Minister Yang Yong-shik
South Korea attaches great importance to Kim Yong-sun's visit
A top North Korean envoy has arrived in Seoul where he is expected to discuss plans for the first ever visit by the state's Stalinist leader Kim Jong-il.

Kim Yong-sun's arrival follows the announcement that the two Koreas will march together for the first time at an Olympic opening ceremony in Sydney on Friday.


We've arrived with aspirations for reunification


Kim Yong-sun
The move is the latest sign of improving relations between the two Cold War foes who are still technically at war.

Kim Yong-sun, a close adviser to Kim Jong-il, arrived in Seoul with a team of delegates at the start of South Korea's harvest thanksgiving holiday.

South Korea's Vice Unification Minister Yang Young-shik welcomed him, saying: "You made the first historic step at the harvest season and we hope to reap as much as we can here."

Barbed wire border
The two Koreas never officially ended their 1950-53 war
The four-day visit is expected to follow up on agreements made during June's historic summit in Pyongyang between Kim Jong-il and the South's President Kim Dae-jung.

It was the first time the leaders of the two countries had met.

Kim Yong-sun, who is secretary of the ruling Workers' Party, was the only other North Korean official to sit in on the talks.

During the summit Kim Jong-il promised he would visit Seoul "at an appropriate time".

Mushrooms

The North Korean delegation arrived at Seoul with several hundred boxes of special mushrooms and ginseng wine.

General Park Jai-kyung
General Park Jai-kyung presents a box of mushrooms
"This gift shows our great leader's strong will to create an amicable mood for implementing our agreements and developing North-South relations," Kim Yong-sun said.

The two Koreas, which were divided into the communist North and the democratic South in 1945, have never officially ended their 1950-53 war.

The visiting delegation also included General Pak Jai-kyung, a member of the North's powerful National Defence Commission.

His arrival raised speculation that North Korea was interested in discussing military co-operation - an area where progress has been relatively slow.

But the general returned home after delivering the mushrooms, which he said were picked by soldiers.

The latest talks may also cover issues such as further reunions for divided families and food aid to the North.

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See also:

02 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Korean communists go home
16 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Koreas end propaganda war
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