SEOUL, South Korea is seeking to install a vice ministerial official in the inter-Korean liaison office to be established in North Korea's border city of Kaesong, a source here said Monday, a move to bolster cross-border cooperation.
During their April summit at the truce village of Panmunjom, President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed to establish the office to "facilitate close consultation between the authorities as well as smooth exchanges and cooperation between the peoples."
"We are seeking (to take care of that issue) in that direction," a source said on condition of anonymity, referring to the news reports that Seoul is considering naming a vice ministerial official or a senior presidential secretary, rather than a working-level official, to represent it in the office.
Seoul and Pyongyang have tentatively decided to open the office on Aug. 17, but they are still in talks over the issue, another government source said.
Earlier in the day, Kim Eui-kyeom, the presidential spokesman, told reporters that any date for the launch of the office has yet to be determined.
"We have a counterpart to discuss issues, including the date. We are currently in consultations with the North," he said.
The biggest hurdle to the opening of the office is the possible violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions against the provision of oil to the communist state. Seoul has called on the U.N. to allow an exemption from the sanctions to ensure that the South Korean staff can work in the office with a stable supply of oil required for electricity production and other purposes.
Meanwhile, a controversy surfaced amid claims that the unification ministry unilaterally contacted the North to demand that Pyongyang pick an official equivalent to the ministry's director-level official for its representative at the liaison office, in an apparent move to fill the post with its own staff.
The contact with the North allegedly came without any consultations with the presidential office, triggering criticism that the ministry is seeking to advance its own parochial interests rather than looking at the issue in the border context of inter-Korean rapprochement.
Source: Yonhap News Agency