It looks like North Korea is really putting in some serious effort when it comes to building bridges with the South. After Kim Jong-un said that he was "open to dialogue" with Seoul, the reclusive nation has now accepted South's offer to hold talks on January 9. Seoul had made the offer after Kim said that the two neighbours must work together to ensure peace in the Korean peninsula.
South Korea's unification ministry announced on Friday that Pyongyang had accepted Seoul's offer for dialogue and also revealed that the talks will be held at a village in Panmunjom on the border.
"North Korea this morning faxed a message to our side, saying it accepts the South's proposal for talks on January 9," a ministry official told AFP.
During the meeting, a first in about two years, the two nations are likely to discuss relations and ways to improve them as well as the upcoming Winter Olympics, set to be held in Pyeongchang in South Korea.
Speaking of the upcoming meet, ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun told Yonhap that the two nations were yet to name the officials who would take part in the dialogue and that the two nations would also exchange a few documents. "The two sides decided to discuss working-level issues for the talks by exchanging documents," Baik explained.
The spokesperson, however, clarified that just because Seoul is set to have a dialogue with Pyongyang doesn't mean it approves of the latter's nuclear programme. He said that South will continue to try and convince the North and its leader Kim to put a stop to the nation's nuclear programme, which has resulted in numerous sanctions.
As part of these efforts for the truce, Pyongyang also opened a hotline to South Korea on January 3 and the line remained open for almost 20 minutes on the day. Kim had reportedly ordered that the hotline be opened at 3 pm local time and the two sides were on a call for 20 minutes between 3.30 pm and 3.50 pm. This hotline had remained closed for almost two years.
The exact details of what happened in the 20 minutes are not known, but South Korea said that technical checks were conducted.
Truce beneficial to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics?
While the truce between the North and South is something that will work out in favour of both the countries and ensure peace in the Korean peninsula, its immediate effect will be seen on the upcoming Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
Seoul has faced several doubts over the smooth functioning of the games and it was earlier said that viewers, as well as sportspersons, had been sceptical about travelling to the South. The reason? Well, Pyeongchang is just 80 kilometres away from the North Korean border and people fear that the reclusive nation might just put their lives at risk any moment.
Speaking of this fear and the low interest that the games have garnered, Anbritt Stengele, founder of Sports Traveler, a Chicago-based travel agency, explained that she has never seen such low sales when it comes to the games. "The interest level is very low for this Olympics. We had Sochi (Russia) in 2014, and that interest level was lower than Vancouver(in 2010). But this one is even lower than Sochi. I would just classify it as extremely light interest. Sales have been stagnant," Stengele told USA Today.
She also said that North Korea and its nuclear programme was the main reason behind these dipping sales as people feared the threats being exchanged between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may just come true.
However, with Kim trying to build bridges with the South and even saying that he was willing to send a delegation to the games, it looks like Seoul doesn't really have much to worry about. "North Korea's participation in the Winter Games will be a good opportunity to show unity of the people and we wish the Games will be a success. Officials from the two Koreas may urgently meet to discuss the possibility," Kim had said during his New Year's address.