Two Koreas Talking

September 15, 1990

When Prime Minister Yon Hyong Muk of North Korea visited Prime Minister Kang Young Hoon of South Korea, they disagreed about everything. But they listened first -- a remarkable breakthrough.

The four-day meeting in Seoul of two large delegations led by the No. 2 man of each government was the most meaningful in the sporadic dialogue between the two halves of Korea which have been isolated from each other since 1945 and at cease-fire without peace since 1953. They have already scheduled a return meeting in Pyongyang. More important, they flirted with a possible meeting between President Roh Tae Woo of South Korea and the aged dictator of North Korea, President Kim Il Sung. And even more important, the day when some ten million Koreans whose families are split can visit each other became imaginable.

Those 43,000 U.S. troops in South Korea cannot be removed right now. North Korea still maintains nearly a million troops at the dividing line, ready to invade south. While the North is ruled by a personality cult in the name of communism that is isolated from the world including most of the Communist world, and the South is ruled largely by generals, peace between them is not at hand.

But peace is closer. Koreans are all one people. They know the South is prosperous and the North is poor. They know that West Germany is absorbing East Germany. They know that if Korea could do the same and put some of its 1.6 million troops to more productive employment, it would soon rival Japan in prosperity and world influence. North Korea knows that the Soviet Union is cutting deals with South Korea and may soon recognize it diplomatically. South Korea knows that Pyongyang's call for releasing dissidents in the South is legitimate and its idea for a joint United Nations seat is intriguing. They both know that if they keep saying they favor reunification, they may someday believe it.

This is just one more example of clients of the United States and Soviet Union trying to readjust their own positions to the Soviet-American accord. And extremely positive it is, too.

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