S. Korea’s conservative presidential candidate willing to meet with DPRK leader

South Korea’s ruling Saenuri Party presidential candidate Park Geun-hye said Monday she is willing to meet with Kim Jong Un, the top leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), to ease strained ties.

“In order to build trust, we need to open various channels of communication,” Park, a conservative, told a televised press conference in Seoul. “I will meet with the North Korean (DPRK) leader, if it helps improve inter-Korean relations.”

Strained ties between the two Koreas should be normalized by building political and military trust and promoting social and economic exchanges, said the 60-year-old candidate who met with late DPRK leader Kim Jong Il in 2002.

As part of what she calls a “trust-building process” on the Korean peninsula, Park vowed to establish offices in both Seoul and Pyongyang to facilitate consultations on inter-Korean economic cooperation.

Park also pledged to transform a joint industrial park in the DPRK border town of Kaesong into a global industrial complex and invest in the DPRK’s special economic zones.

The reconciliatory tone took a turn, however, when she moved on to security issues. Park’s conservative party has maintained a consistently harsh stance toward its northern neighbor.

Referring to the deadly sea border clashes in 2010, the daughter of late military dictator Park Chung-hee warned the DPRK against future provocations.

“I will never accept provocations along the Northern Limit Line,” she added, referring to the western maritime border where the two Koreas engaged in naval skirmishes in the past.

Park’s election rivals include Moon Jae-in of the center-left main opposition Democratic United Party and independent candidate Ahn Cheol-soo, who have both pledged to improve relations with Pyongyang.

The presidential election will be held on Dec. 19, with incumbent President Lee Myung-bak barred from seeking reelection under the constitution.


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