Yoon has private dinner with U.S. envoy for N. Korea

SEOUL-- President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol had a private dinner with U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Sung Kim and reaffirmed the need to maintain close bilateral relations, officials said Wednesday.

The dinner was held at the home of Deputy National Assembly Speaker Chung Jin-suk on Tuesday as part of Kim's five-day visit to the country.

Also in attendance was Rep. Cho Tae-yong, a former vice foreign minister who recently traveled to Washington as a member of Yoon's policy consultation delegation.

"I understand that the attendees shared the view that more than ever, South Korea-U.S. relations must be firmly maintained and developed," one official close to the president-elect said.

The dinner was held over wine and lasted around 2 1/2 hours, another official said.

Kim has been meeting with officials of both the outgoing and incoming administrations to coordinate the allies' North Korea policy amid concern Pyongyang could stage major provocations, such as a nuclear or intercontinental ballistic missile test, ahead of Yoon's inauguration next month.

No meeting with Yoon had been announced.

"The dinner was a simple meeting privately arranged by Deputy Speaker Chung Jin-suk and had no diplomatic significance," Yoon's spokesperson Bae Hyun-jin said in a notice to the press.

Chung and Kim grew up together in the Seongbuk-dong area of Seoul and are known to be close friends.

When Chung moved to Washington in the early 90s as a correspondent for a local newspaper, he stayed at Kim's home before finding a place to live.

And when Kim held his wedding in Los Angeles, Chung acted as the porter who carried gifts from the groom's family to the bride's, a tradition observed in Korean weddings.

Source: Yonhap News Agency