North Korean officials visited South Korea's National Assembly for the first time yesterday in a symbolic gesture of reconciliation with their democratic rivals.
The parliamentary visit came on the final of three days of joint celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the Korean Peninsula's liberation from Japanese colonial rule.
"Real and substantial cooperative relations between the South and the North start now," National Assembly Speaker Kim One-ki said. "The South and the North should combine their strong points and complement each other's shortcomings."
Kim proposed talks between South and North Korean lawmakers that would provide a "most appropriate channel to deliver and raise understanding of the North's views" for South Koreans, according to pool reports. He promised to implement laws that would help Seoul and Pyongyang proceed with their joint projects.
Also yesterday, the North Korean delegation visited former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung, who was hospitalized last week with bacterial pneumonia. Kim, in a hospital gown, shook hands with North Korean head delegate Kim Ki-nam, vice chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, who delivered get-well wishes from North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
Kim Dae-jung met his North Korean counterpart in June 2000 at an unprecedented summit between leaders of the divided countries, which remain technically at war.
"If the [summit] marked the beginning of the South-North cooperation, this time, it provides a chance to pledge a leap forward," Kim said.
The two Koreas were to wrap up their three-day celebrations yesterday evening with a farewell dinner and soccer match between their national women's teams. Their men's soccer teams played an exhibition match on Sunday at the start of the joint events, where the South beat the North 3-0.
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun will host a luncheon today for the North Korean delegates before their departure today, Roh's spokesman Kim Man-soo said. He declined to say whether the North Koreans will deliver a message from Kim Jong-il as has been reported.
Some 200 North Koreans are in Seoul for the joint celebrations. Earlier, delegates called for greater unity and reconciliation between the two Koreas.
On Liberation Day on Monday, 40 families separated by the border held virtual reunions over the first-ever video link between the countries. Some 10,000 families have met since 2000 in face-to-face reunions, and another is planned for later this month.
South Korea has continued with its engagement with the North despite an ongoing international standoff over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.
The latest round of talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear ambitions is in recess after the six negotiating countries failed to agree earlier this month.
The talks -- among the two Koreas, the US, China, Japan and Russia -- are to resume during the week of Aug. 29 in Beijing. South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon will travel to Washington on Saturday to discuss the upcoming talks with US officials, his ministry said yesterday.
Ban is to meet with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, the chief US envoy to the nuclear talks.