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Kim Jong-un appears willing to 'handle' inter-Korean relations: minister
SEOUL, Jan. 2 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's New Year's address showed Pyongyang's resolve and will to "handle" the present situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula, a senior government official said Wednesday.

   Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik told reporters that Kim's speech seems to contain his intention to manage inter-Korean relations, even though the message itself was not special. The address was released on New Year's Day.

  
Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik addresses government officials in Seoul on Jan. 2, 2013. (Yonhap)


"The message was bland and there was no ground-breaking proposals," the senior policymaker said. He, however, hinted that Kim understood that the political landscape in Northeast Asia was changing with new leaders taking over in Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo.

   The incumbent leader of the reclusive communist country, who took over the country in late 2011 after the death of his father Kim Jong-il, called for building up economic power and handling tensions with South Korea.

   Yu's remarks come as President-elect Park Geun-hye has pledged to engage in talks with North Korea and try to ease tensions after she takes power on Feb. 25. The 60-year-old Park won the Dec. 19 race on the conservative ruling Saenuri Party ticket.

   The minister then said that in the past Seoul had tried to engage Pyongyang with "good intentions" but made little progress.

   He said despite such failures, the incoming administration should continue to encourage the North to change.

   For the future, Yu said that South Korea should take the initiative in carrying out dialogue with the North because the country is directly affected by developments taking place across its northern border.

   The minister speculated that the Park government will probably not push forward sudden changes but opt to make modifications to existing policies and overcome past shortcomings.

   Yu, meanwhile, said that despite concerns raised by some, the outside world does not oppose plans that could lead to the expansion of the Kaesong Industrial Complex run by South Korean companies in North Korea.

   "As long as there are comprehensive improvements in South-North ties there is no reason for other countries to express concern," he said.

   The official claimed that members of the European Union are sympathetic toward extending favorable tariff rates for products made in Kaesong. Such a move could give a boost to the complex and greatly improve inter-Korean cooperation.

   The complex that went into operation 10 years ago is considered the crowning achievement of late President Kim Dae-jung's rapprochement policy toward the North.

   yonngong@yna.co.kr
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