South Korea plans to seek increased contact with North Korea and strive to improve human rights in the isolated regime this year.
The unification ministry unveiled its 2023 blueprint at a policy briefing to President Yoon Suk Yeol held at the former presidential office of Cheongwadae, on Friday. This includes pursuing direct and indirect contact through civic groups and international organizations in a bid to defuse strained inter-Korean relations.
During the briefing, Unification Minister Kwon Young-se said that despite the continued difficulties in cross-border ties expected this year, the ministry will remain steadfast and work toward establishing peace and prosperity on a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.
It will also fine-tune a detailed action plan for Yoon’s proposal for an "audacious initiative" unveiled last year which promises economic aid to Pyongyang in return for denuclearization steps. North Korea has balked at Yoon’s offer.
Due to an absence of government-to-government talks, the ministry will try to seek a breakthrough in contacting the North via civic groups and global organizations through their humanitarian aid support.
Kwon also vowed to step up efforts to improve North Korean human rights. The ministry will prepare for the launch of an exclusive foundation dedicated to the cause, currently stalled amid partisan differences over how to divide up board members.
Seoul maintains the stance that humanitarian cooperation is separate from politics and military affairs.
If inter-Korean dialogue resumes, the ministry plans to put priority on addressing issues stemming from the divided state of the peninsula such as separated families, POWs, detainees and abductees.
In March, the ministry will publish an annual report on the North's human rights situation, including in English.