The hopes for an improved relationship between North and South Korea that emanated from a visit to the North's capital some five months ago by Lim Dong-won, a special advisor on national security to South Korea's President Kim, were dashed by a naval clash last June which resulted in the deaths of four South Korean sailors. But now, most likely stimulated by the North's worsening economic condition, it looks as if talks between both nations are on again. That's not only good news for the Korean peninsula and Asia, it's good news for the United States if the cooling waters of diplomacy can be splashed on one of world's hot spots.
The same issues considered last winter are back on the table again: reunions of families separated by war, a cross-border railway line and joint economic projects. The latter have become even more significant as poverty and famine increasingly afflict North Korea's people. The failure of the hard-line Communist regime to meet the most basic needs of its population stands in sharp contrast to the thriving South, which with the support of the United States, now has the 12th largest economy in the world.
Axis of evil
Further, the characterization by President George W. Bush of North Korea as part of an "axis of evil" that included Iran and Iraq in his "State of the Union" address put that nation on notice that its warmongering would not be tolerated. An impoverished people cannot afford guns and butter -- nor the animosity of the United States whose help leader Kim Jong Il desperately needs.
The two sides are now expected to hold Cabinet-level talks in Seoul from Aug. 12-14. North Korea has also said it will participate -- for the first time ever -- in the 14th Asian Games, to be held in South Korea in mid-September. In addition, a North Korean soccer team will travel to Seoul in early September for what has been characterized as a friendly match. Ri Gwang Gun, chairman of the North Korean Football Association, sent a letter to Jong Mong Jun, chairman of the South Korean Football Association, congratulating his football team on its success in the Korea- and Japan-sponsored World Cup -- a rare gesture indeed.
A friendly football match between two hitherto-- and perhaps, still -- deadly rivals is a step in the right direction. Especially, if the game can legitimately end in a tie.