10/27/2005, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA – NORTH KOREA
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Joint economic cooperation office to open in North

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
The Office of Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation is the first permanent South Korean government agency to open in the North with Pyongyang's approval since partition.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – The Office of Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation is set to open tomorrow at the industrial complex in Kaesŏng, in North Korea. It establishes a permanent South Korean government presence in the North for the first time since the nation's division in 1945.

Some 200 South Koreans, including Lim Chae-jung—chairman of the Unification, Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee of the National Assembly—will attend the opening ceremony. Some 80 North Koreans, among them Pyongyang's chief delegate to the economic talks Choi Young-kun, will be also present.

After the opening ceremony, representatives from both Koreas will take part in the 11th round of inter-Korean talks on promoting economic cooperation. The agenda to be discussed during the talks include linking up the railways on both sides of the inter-Korean border, road traffic and mine development.

"South and North Korea agreed to set up the office to support direct trade, boost investment and build a permanent consultation channel between the two authorities," Vice Unification Minister Rhee Bong-jo said Thursday.

"We think it's significant that the office will institutionalize inter-Korean economic cooperation and help it to develop further both in quality and quantity," Rhee added.

The office will serve 14 South Korean officials, headed by Hwang Pu-ki, a Unification Ministry official. Four employees from private companies are also included.

Ten North Korean officials will be stationed on the third floor, headed by Jun Sung-keun, former director of the North's National Economic Cooperation Federation in Dandung, China.

"We have agreed to hold a regular weekly directors' meeting," Rhee said.

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