|Officials of the South and North unveil the building name of an inter-Korean liaison office during the opening ceremony, at the North's city of Gaeseong, Friday. / Joint Press Corps|
By Kim Bo-eun, Joint Press Corps
The Koreas opened a joint liaison office in the North's city of Gaeseong, Friday, the first organization at which South and North Koreans will work together.
Office co-heads Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung and his North Korean counterpart Jon Jong-su held their first meeting after the opening ceremony. Officials of the South and North began operating the office the same day.
The office will enable around the clock contact between the South and North, as officials will be on standby outside regular hours. South Korean workers will stay at accommodation facilities at the office throughout the week.
South and North Korean officials there will discuss carrying out inter-Korean projects such as conducting studies on North Korea's railways and roads and reforestation in the North.
Establishing the joint liaison office is among the agreement reached between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in April.
The opening had initially been scheduled for August, but was postponed due to the situation of denuclearization talks between North Korea and the U.S. and issues concerning sanctions on the North.
Weeks earlier, the U.S. is seen to have been displeased with proceeding with inter-Korean projects amid stalled denuclearization talks.
Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon told reporters that inter-Korean projects are progressing, based on close communication and understanding with the U.S.
"With the establishment of the inter-Korean liaison office, the two sides have been enabled to swiftly discuss issues that arise in inter-Korean relations and seek necessary measures, and lend an impetus to improvement and development of relations and take a big step toward the Korean Peninsula's peace and prosperity, and unification," Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, said at the opening ceremony.
Cho said "Through this (contact) channel, we have become able to closely consult with the North various projects to develop inter-Korean relations, denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and achieve peace and prosperity of the peninsula."
Because the office is located within the currently shuttered Gaeseong Industrial Complex, there was speculation that the complex could start operating again. The speculation was fanned due to the participation of Gaeseong complex officials at the opening ceremony of the contact office.
The Gaeseong Industrial Complex was shut down in February 2016, due to the North's nuclear and missile provocations.
Cho said resuming the operation of the Gaeseong complex and the liaison office are unrelated.
"It is our goal to seek to resume operating the complex but we believe this is an issue that should be resolved within the framework of cooperation with the international community," the minister said, referring to sanctions imposed on the North.
Around 50 South Koreans of the government, National Assembly, academia, civic groups and institutions related to inter-Korean affairs attended the opening ceremony in Gaeseong.