SEOUL, South Korea – A high-level delegation from North Korea (search) arrived in Seoul for bilateral talks Tuesday and was immediately confronted by demonstrators who angered the visitors by displaying posters of their leader, Kim Jong Il (search), tied up in ropes.
The North Korean delegates complained after their motorcade encountered the protesters on a road near the airport as they headed to a hotel for talks with the South Korean government, South Korea's YTN television reported. The protesters said they were in vehicles plastered with posters calling for Kim to be punished.
In the North, Kim is the object of an official personality cult along with his father, founding ruler Kim Il Sung (search), and strict rules govern how their images are treated.
This week's talks are aimed at normalizing ties between the two Koreas and elaborating on agreements made during Friday's surprise meeting between Kim and the South's top envoy to the North.
Contacts between two resumed last month after being severed by the North for 10 months in anger over mass defections of its citizens to the South.
Although the South was expected to raise the international standoff over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons ambitions, the North was likely to focus on aid for its impoverished economy and maintain its insistence that the nuclear issue can only be resolved with the United States.
Unification Minister Chung Dong-young, who is leading Seoul's delegation, welcomed the North Koreans before the two sides headed to dinner.
"It's been a year since talks have taken place, so I hope that South-North relations can start anew," Chung said.
After his meeting Friday with Kim, Chung said the North Korean leader pledged to return as soon as July to the nuclear talks that he has boycotted for a year — if the North gets appropriate respect from Washington. He also said he would rejoin the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty if the standoff was resolved, according to Chung.
The two sides also agreed to work together on a variety of bilateral issues, which were expected to be discussed at the meeting in Seoul.
Kim and Chung said family reunions between Koreans divided by the border would be resumed in August at the Diamond Mountain tourist resort, the only place South Koreans can freely visit in the North. Also, Pyongyang will send a high-level delegation to Seoul on Aug. 15, marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Korean Peninsula from Japanese colonial rule.
The two also agreed on the need to resume military talks between the Koreas, who remain technically at war since the Korean War ended in a 1953 cease-fire.
Seoul's aid to the North is also a focus. On Monday, South Korean officials said Pyongyang had requested 150,000 tons of fertilizer aid to help produce enough food to feed its impoverished people.
In January, Pyongyang asked for 500,000 tons in fertilizer aid but Seoul refused, citing the previously stalled inter-Korean relations. After contacts resumed in May, the South agreed to ship 200,000 tons of fertilizer, and deliveries were completed Sunday.