South and North Korea will officially launch their joint liaison office this week aimed at fostering cross-border exchange and contacts, the unification ministry here said Wednesday.
The liaison office will be launched in the North's border town of Kaesong on Friday, with around 50-60 people each from the two Koreas expected to attend the opening ceremony, according to the ministry.
The move is a follow-up on an agreement that the leaders of the two Koreas reached in their April summit on hopes that the office will serve as a communication channel to help facilitate inter-Korean cooperation on various fronts.
"The liaison office will become a round-the-clock consultation and communication channel for advancing inter-Korean relations, easing military tensions and establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula," the ministry said in a press release.
"We expect that South-North Korean relations will be managed in a stable manner through 24-hour communication, 365 days of the year, which is also expected to be conducive to advancing relations between North Korea and the United States," it added.
The office will be operational right after the opening ceremony. South Korea will station around 20 officials there, while the North will deploy 15-20 officials to the office.
Along with the opening ceremony, the two sides will sign an agreement detailing how to compose and operate the liaison office, the ministry said.
The office, the first of its kind, was widely expected to be launched in August but its opening was delayed, apparently affected by Washington's anxiety that inter-Korean cooperation is progressing faster than its stalemated denuclearization talks with the North.
It is said that the U.S. relented after a South Korean presidential delegation's recent trip to Pyongyang, during which North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reaffirmed his commitment to denuclearization.
Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung will lead South Korea's side, while North Korea will send a vice chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, a North Korean agency in charge of inter-Korean exchange, the ministry said.
The two co-heads will meet once every week in the office and could hold more consultations if necessary to discuss any pending issues.
Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon and other people from the parliament and academia will attend the ceremony. Among the North Koreans who will join the event is Ri Son-kwon, who has led high-level inter-Korean talks for months, according to the ministry. (Yonhap)
Cho Kyung-hee email@example.com