The inter-Korean military working-level talks, the first inter-Korean talks since the inauguration of President Lee Myung-bak, began October 2 at the Peace House, located on the southern side of the Military Demarcation Line in the truce village of Panmunjom, but ended fruitlessly, only confirming the differences in perspective between North and South. In particular, the North criticized the dissemination in North Korea of leaflets critical of the North by civilian groups in the South and warned that if these are not discontinued, they will have a negative influence on the industrial complex and tourism in Gaeseong (Kaesong). They went on to express concerns about the deterioration of inter-Korean relations.
The Ministry of Defense said that day that the North had gone into detail at the talks in describing examples of the distribution of leaflets critical of the North by South Korean civilian groups, and strongly demanded apologies, punishment of those responsible, and a promise to prevent future occurrences. According to the Ministry of Defense, the North indicated that, in the event of continued acts of flier distribution, there would be severe negative repercussions affecting the industrial complex and tourism at Gaeseong, transit of South Korean personnel through the Military Demarcation Line could not be realized properly, and it could become impossible for South Korean personnel to be housed within the Gaeseong and Mount Geumgang (Kumgang) regions.
In response, the South affirmed that its military authorities are faithfully abiding by the June 2004 agreement to discontinue propaganda activities at the Military Demarcation Line and commented that it is inappropriate for the North to link the distribution of leaflets by civilian groups with the industrial complex at Gaeseong and tourism in Gaeseong and at Mount Geumgang. Colonel Lee Sang-cheol, chief delegate for the South at the talks, said that the North is quite sensitive about leaflets containing content critical of North Korea’s National Defence Commission Chairman Kim Jong-il
Since 2004, groups such as the North Korea Christian Association and Fighters for Free North Korea have been sending large balloons carrying fliers from the vicinity of the Armistice Line. The fliers are known to contain information about human rights infringements in North Korea such as torture, massacres, and public executions, as well as about the wives, family problems and health issues of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
At the general-level talks held in May and July of last year, the North urged the cessation of leaflet distribution by the South. It also sent a notice last May demanding cessation of leaflet distribution to the North. The North initially made a proposal September 25 to hold the military talks. Analyses are emerging that the link established at the talks between the distribution of fliers and the Gaeseong Industrial Complex and tourism in Gaeseong and at Mount Geumgang, which represent the core of inter-Korean cooperation, cannot be treated lightly.
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