South Korea's Park pledges engagement with Pyongyang

Mon Nov 5, 2012 4:22am GMT

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's presidential frontrunner Park Geun-hye proposed on Monday to open liaison offices in the capitals of the rival Koreas in a sweeping policy statement that aimed to revive ties between the two countries.

Park, who represents the conservative New Frontier Party and is seeking to become the country's first woman president, said she was willing to meet North Korea's leader but said Pyongyang must renew its commitment to end its nuclear programme.

Park, who is the daughter of assassinated leader Park Chung-hee, leads her two major liberal opponents by double digits in a race for a December 19 vote to pick South Korea's president for a single five-year term.

Park's call for a more accommodative policy toward the North is aimed at distancing herself from President Lee Myung-bak's hardline position.

The two Koreas remain technically at war after an armistice rather than a peace treaty ended the 1950-53 Korean War. In 2010, the North shelled a civilian area in the South and is accused of a deadly naval attack.

North Korea under its untested new leader Kim Jong-un has resumed verbal attacks on Lee's government and on Park.

Pyongyang is widely seen as favouring the liberal opposition's Moon Jae-in, who has pledged unconditional aid for the impoverished and isolated country.

"For continued and systematic development of South-North economic cooperation and social and cultural exchange, I will establish South-North exchange and cooperation offices in Seoul and Pyongyang," Park told a news conference.

The proposal for liaison offices dates back to the early 1990s before the leaders of the two Koreas met for the first time in 2000.   Continued...

Park Geun-hye attends a national convention of the ruling Saenuri Party in Goyang, north of Seoul August 20, 2012. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won
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