|Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon listens to a lawmaker's question at a National Assembly audit held at the Assembly, Thursday. / Yonhap|
By Kim Bo-eun
The government is discussing preparations for economic cooperation with North Korea, Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said Thursday.
"We are talking with the North about carrying out inspections in preparation for economic cooperation," he said in a National Assembly audit.
He added that talks were also taking place with the North to allow inspections of the currently shuttered Gaeseong Industrial Complex, but that this was being discussed separately from the issue of resuming operation of the complex.
The joint industrial complex in the North's city of Gaeseong was shut down by the South in February 2016 due to Pyongyang's missile and nuclear provocations.
Reopening the complex goes against U.N. Security Council sanctions placed on the North.
The minister said "he anticipates progress in the second scheduled summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump."
Meanwhile, regarding the controversy over Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha's remarks that the government was reviewing the lifting of South Korean sanctions on the North, he stated "the government has not specifically reviewed the matter."
Kang was referring to the May 24 sanctions placed on the North under the 2008-13 Lee Myung-bak administration for the sinking of the South Korean Navy frigate Cheonan that killed 46 sailors in March 2010.
Cho said before the unilateral sanctions were lifted, "there needs to be measures regarding the Cheonan," by which he meant North Korea would need to take responsibility.
At the same time, he said many of the elements of the sanctions have been eased amid progress in inter-Korean relations.
He added that elements were also eased later during the conservative Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye administrations.
Cho also stated the government's stance that the National Assembly needs to ratify the Panmunjeom Declaration reached between the leaders of the Koreas at their summit in April.
"The ratification will help not only inter-Korean talks, but also with North Korea's denuclearization," Cho said.
Currently, the bill has yet to be referred to the foreign affairs and unification committee due to conservative opposition parties' objections.
The Liberty Korea Party (LKP) and Bareunmirae Party state that North Korea needs to take tangible denuclearization steps before the agreement can be ratified.
The declaration states that the Koreas and relevant states seek to declare an end to the 1950-53 Korean War, and contains plans for economic cooperation.