South Korea presidential candidate says he would meet with Kim Jong Un

The North Korean side of the border as seen from Paju, a South Korean border city north of Seoul. A South Korean presidential candidate said Tuesday he would reopen communication channels with Pyongyang to reopen Kaesong, a jointly operated factory park that closed in February. Photo by Yonhap/UPI

SEOUL, Dec. 27 (UPI) — A South Korean presidential candidate noted for his candid populist views says he would be willing to meet with North Korea‘s Kim Jong Un if elected.

Lee Jae-myung, the mayor of a city outside Seoul, told reporters Tuesday he would meet with Kim to discuss the resumption of a jointly operated factory park in Kaesong, North Korea, South Korean news service Newsis reported.

“Of course I would meet with [Kim],” Lee said. “North Korea is a hostile country, realistically speaking, but also is a party we must co-exist with and [eventually] unify.”

Lee criticized current Seoul policies that have culminated in the shutdown of official channels of dialogue, developments that have placed “peaceful unification further out of reach.”

“In this situation new leaders must quickly meet, and advance policies that create win-win circumstances for all,” the candidate said.

Lee was particularly reproachful of a South Korean government decision to shutter the Kaesong Industrial Complex and the losses incurred by South Korean businessmen as a result of the shutdown.

“The closure of [Kaesong] was clearly a violation of current law. The president who undertook this illegal act should pay out compensation,” Lee said.

The current mayor added the measure did not enhance national security and that “negotiations must start” to ease inter-Korea tensions.

Lee also said his approach to North Korea is not a “pro-North Korea stance,” and that such a position would for him be “impossible.”

Lee is currently the third-most popular candidate. According to a South Korean poll, Lee has an approval rating of 12.3 percent, ranking behind former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who stands at 23.3 percent, and opposition party candidate Moon Jae-in, who is nearly tied with Ban at 23.1 percent.


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