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North and South Korea resume efforts to reunify their countries

Last week's historic economic meeting between North and South Korea, and the Red Cross meeting scheduled today, are raising hopes among observers here that tensions will decrease on the Korean Peninsula and that the two countries will resume efforts at reunification sometime in the future.

The economic meeting held at the truce village of Panmunjom was the first since the two countries were divided at the 38th parallel in 1953.

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Delegates from the two countries agreed to promote further exchanges in trade and economic cooperation. The South Korean delegate, Kim Ki Hwan, said that the meeting had made a ''good initial start.''

His North Korean counterpart, Li Song Rok, told the press that the mood was amicable and that ''good results could be expected from now.''

Some are still skeptical, but many Korea-watchers expect further development in North-South relations at today's Red Cross meeting - the first in more than a decade. Delegates will discuss the possibility of reuniting families separated by the division between North and South Korea.

These recent meetings have resulted mostly from North Korea's new willingness to open its doors to the West after years of isolation. Relations between North and South Korea have been extremely tense since the division after the war.

But Korea-watchers say that North Korean leader Kim Il Sung has appeared less belligerent in recent months. Mr. Kim recently told the visiting chairman of Japan's Socialist Party that he wants to end as soon as possible the confrontation between North and South Korea as well as that between North Korea and the United States. Kim refrained from his past practice of calling President Chun Doo Hwan the puppet of the US government.

Last September Pyongyang unexpectedly offered relief supplies to flood victims in Seoul.

North Korea's new move has a lot to do with changes in its economic policies. In September it introduced a new joint-venture law to encourage foreign investment.

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According to estimates by the Japan External Trade Organization, North Korea's foreign debt totals somewhere between $1.5 billion and $2 billion. After the Rangoon incidenta number of countries, including Japan, imposed economic sanctions against it. Political analysts say North Korea is now trying to reactivate its economy by following Peking's example of liberalization and encouragement of foreign investment.

South Korea, too, has much to gain from the recent North-South rapprochement.

One of its major goals is to make the 1988 Olympics in Seoul a major success. South Korea wants to avoid a replay of the Los Angeles Olympics, which lost credibility when East-bloc nations decided not to attend.

South Korea is quietly smoothing the way for participation by communist countries by trying to establish contact with them. It has initiated contact with China through unofficial visits, and telephone lines between Seoul and Peking have recently been linked up.

These recent moves have been welcomed by other countries that have been pressuring both North and South Korea to improve relations and lessen tensions on the peninsula. After the Rangoon bombing, China reportedly counseled Pyongyang to take a moderate line.

On the other side, the US has been urging Seoul to improve relations with North Korea. Just this month, Tokyo announced it will remove sanctions against North Korea starting in January 1985.

At the economic meeting last week, North and South Korea agreed that they should promote economic exchanges and cooperation.

The two countries agreed to continue talks in Panmunjom. The next meeting has been set for Dec. 5.

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