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(Yonhap Interview) Schroeder voices support for inter-Korean talks

2018/01/28 09:00

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PAJU, South Korea, Jan. 28 (Yonhap) -- Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has voiced strong support for the recently resumed inter-Korean dialogue, saying talks between the two Koreas should be pursued under any circumstances.

In an interview with Yonhap News Agency, conducted after his trip on Friday to the Joint Security Area (JSA) and the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, which separates South and North Korea, Schroeder underlined the importance of patience to get over differences caused by decadeslong division.

"Under any circumstances, talks should be pursued ... the Germans also always placed importance on talks (before their reunification) and made consistent efforts to that end," he said through his South Korean fiancé and interpreter Kim So-yeon.

"Division cannot be overcome overnight but it needs a long time," he said. "South and North Korea should not stop trying to get closer to each other and it is important to try that constantly with patience and deep breath."

  

Schroeder, who served as chancellor from 1998 to 2005, and Kim announced their plan to marry within this year, in a press conference held in Seoul on Thursday.

His trip to Seoul came as South and North Korea resumed high-level talks earlier this month, for the first time in more than two years, at the truce village of Panmunjom, to discuss the North's participation in the Feb. 9-25 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

North Korea plans to send a delegation composed of athletes, ranking officials and cheerleaders, to the Olympics in the South.

The two Koreas also agreed to march together under a unification flag during the opening ceremony and field a joint women's ice hockey team.

The Seoul government has been under fire from conservatives who claim that it has given too much to the North to ensure its participation. Some raise concern over fairness, claiming that the government has forced young South Korean athletes to sacrifice for the sake of inter-Korean relations.

Asked about his views on the ongoing controversy, Schroeder said that no less emphasis should be placed on the contribution that the joint team between the two Koreas could make to rapprochement, though he recognized the concern being shared by young people.

"Giving fair opportunities is a good value but the fact that South and North Koreas used to be a single country is as good as fair opportunities," he said.

"The younger people's argument should, of course, be respected but it would be great to remind ourselves of and reflect on the fact that the joint team could be a small step that could realize the value of making the two Koreas a unified one."

   It was Schroeder's first visit to the JSA and Panmunjom, which are considered to be the last vestiges of the Cold War. The two Koreas remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

Asked about impressions he took away from his tour of the areas where South and North Korean soldiers stand face to face, Schroeder said it is a far cry from the feeling that he had while staying in Seoul, which is just 50 kilometers away.

"When I was in Seoul, it was hard to feel that the Korean Peninsula remains divided, but I can feel it here ... this place feels like a totally different world located between two worlds," he said.

kokobj@yna.co.kr

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