Minister of Unification Hyun In Taek has asserted that there need to be inter-Korean talks in advance of any suggestion of a pipeline crossing North Korean territory to supply South Korea with natural gas from Siberia.
Speaking to the National Assembly’s Special Committee on Inter-Korean Relations Development this morning, Hyun explained, “We haven’t made a concrete judgment about what is going on as yet.”
However, he then moved to emphasize, “The gas pipeline isn’t just something between Russia and North Korea; since it is an issue that must be connected to South Korea, there has to be serious discussion between North and South.”
“To make this work properly,” he went on, “inter-Korean trust must be established. A gas pipeline is a long term strategic issue for the future, so all possible scenarios must be considered.”
Meanwhile, Hyun also gave the Ministry of Unification’s position on the visit of Kim Jong Il to both Russia and China, saying, “We view positively both the element of opening to and having discussions with the international community.”
“North Korea should show sincerity in terms of denuclearization and adopt a responsible attitude going forward,” he added.
Hyun also took questions from lawmakers on the situation surrounding separated family reunions, which have historically often taken place over the three-day Chuseok holiday. This year’s holiday falls on September 11th, 12th and 13th.
“It is a misunderstanding to say that the Ministry of Unification has rejected the separated family reunions issue,” Hyun explained. “It is one of the main issues we think about as most important, and pushing forward with them is right under acceptable conditions.”
“We have never once said we will not have separated family reunions,” he later again reaffirmed.
Meanwhile, President Lee Myung Bak is coming under increasing pressure to remove Hyun from the Ministry of Unification portfolio, with the chair of the ruling Grand National Party, Hong Joon Pyo, reportedly calling for his removal during a Sunday breakfast meeting and a number of opposition party lawmakers calling for him to go via a motion tabled in the National Assembly today.