SEOUL, Sept. 3 (Yonhap) -- The leader of a South Korean private group promoting inter-Korean cooperation said Monday that the private sector has an important role to play in transforming the past era of confrontation and conflict on the Korean Peninsula into a new era of peace.

Kim Hong-geol, chairman of the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation (KCRC), said the private sector should more actively pursue exchanges with North Korea to display the South Korean people's commitment to safeguarding peace to the international community.

"The current situation is different from 20 years ago, but the role of the private sector is still important," said Kim, the youngest son of former President Kim Dae-jung, in an interview with Yonhap News. Kim held the interview as the council celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

"In 1998, my father led the foundation of the KCRC, stressing efforts to promote private sector exchanges ahead of government-level talks. This is a critical moment in the transformation of confrontation and conflict on the Korean Peninsula into an era of peace. The government and the private sector should jointly make all-out efforts for peace," Kim said.

He emphasized that the KCRC has steadily striven to maintain trust with North Korea despite strained inter-Korean relations in the past. In 2016, he said the council sent flood relief goods to the flood-stricken North via China despite objections from the then Park Geun-hye government.

Kim said his council is now in talks with the North about a joint repatriation of the remains of Korean draftees forcibly taken to Japan during its colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, and the establishment of a liaison office between the KCRC of both Koreas. North Korea has its own KCRC.

"There will be some outcomes in the repatriation of the remains of Korean draftees from Japan this year," Kim said. "Moreover, we're now discussing a gathering of people from various circles of the two Koreas at the North's Mount Kumgang in October."

Source: Yonhap News Agency