SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea said Friday it will push to allow more journalists to travel to North Korea to cover a wider range of cross-border exchange projects such as sports and academic programs.
Seoul's Unification Ministry said it will actively support sports, culture, academic and other civilian exchange programs with North Korea to improve relations as this year marks the 70th anniversary of the Korean Peninsula's division after World War II. To do so, South Korea plans to increase government spending and inspire more diversified exchanges and permit South Korean journalists to go to North Korea to cover them.
It's unclear if North Korea will respond positively. It has been more interested in resuming lucrative cooperation projects with South Korea first, and animosities remain a week after the end of annual U.S.-South Korea military drills that anger Pyongyang.
Unification Ministry spokeswoman Park Soo-jin said soccer and table tennis matches and joint excavation projects on historical sites could help people from the North and South communicate and better understand each other.
Seoul had toughened restrictions on civilian trips to North Korea following the sinking of a South Korea warship in 2010. Seoul blamed North Korea, which has denied its involvement.
"The (South Korean) plans will have limited effect, because South Korea still isn't offering North Korea what it wants" such as the restart of joint tours to the North's scenic Diamond Mountain resort, said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the Seoul-based University of North Korean Studies.
The tourism project, which had provided a legitimate source of hard currency to the cash-strapped North, was suspended following the 2008 shooting death of a South Korean tourist there.