SEOUL, Nov. 14 (Korea Bizwire) — Oceans Minister Kim Young-choon on Tuesday interpreted North Korea’s recent repatriation of a seized South Korean fishing boat as a “conciliatory gesture,” as Seoul seeks to improve cross-border ties.
During a parliamentary session, Kim also dismissed speculation that Pyongyang captured the boat, 391 Hungjin, last month in a move to sow discord in South Korea’s society long split over how to deal with the provocative regime.
“I don’t think so at all,” Kim said in response to a lawmaker’s question of whether Pyongyang seized and returned the boat to trigger division among South Koreans.
“And based on common sense, I think the North intended to make some sort of conciliatory gesture toward our side,” he added.
The boat carrying 10 sailors returned to the South on Oct. 27, six days after the North captured it for “illegally intruding” into waters under its control. Pyongyang said it had decided to send it back “from a humanitarian point of view.”
Relations between the two Koreas have remained chilled due to Pyongyang’s unceasing provocations, including its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3 and a fusillade of missile launches.
Seoul’s Moon Jae-in government has been pushing for dialogue and rapprochement with Pyongyang, while sternly responding to its provocations through sanctions and diplomatic pressure.