N. Korean prime minister visits South Korea for first time in 15 years


North Korea’s prime minister arrived here Wednesday to hold talks with his South Korean counterpart on implementing agreements reached at the second-ever inter-Korean summit last month.

In last month’s summit in Pyongyang, President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il called for denuclearization of North Korea, the establishment of a permanent peace regime on the peninsula and a range of economic cooperation and rapprochement measures.

Kim Yong-il is the first North Korean premier to visit here in 15 years. The prime ministers of the Koreas held eight rounds of talks until 1992. Inter-Korean minister-level talks resumed in 2000 following the first-ever summit between the leaders of the Koreas earlier that year.


Premier aims to build North Korean economy with inter-Korean cooperation


North Korea’s prime minister is expected to make inter-Korean economic projects a top priority in the prime ministerial talks this week, watchers forecast on Wednesday.

Kim Yong-il, North Korea’s top official in overall economic policy, was due to arrive in Seoul on Wednesday for three-day talks with South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo.

The talks follow last month’s inter-Korean summit held in Pyongyang, as well as Kim’s trip earlier this month to Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia and Laos. Kim’s Southeast Asian trip was aimed at finding ways to boost North Korea’s failing economy through regional cooperation.

Kim replaced his predecessor, Pak Pong-ju, as prime minister earlier this year after spending most of his career in maritime affairs and transport.

The 63-year-old career administrator served nine years in the military beginning in 1961 and graduated from the Rajin University of Marine Transport, leading to his bureaucratic career as a rank-and-filer in the Ministry of Land and Marine Transport.

He became head of the ministry in 1994, a position he held until he was appointed as prime minister on April 11.

The premier was praised by the North Korean people in 2005 for successfully modernizing the Ryongnam Ship Repair Factory near the western port of Nampo.

Kim is also well-known for having forged maritime communications and transportation agreements with North Korea’s allies, including China, Pakistan and Syria.

Some South Korean experts say Kim’s background represents a shift in North Korea’s economic policy, suggesting a move from isolation to economic expansion in the international community, as well an emphasis on reform and technology.


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