South Korea's Park Geun Hye forms special reunification panel

South Korea's President Park Geun-hye delivers a televised speech on economic reform plan at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, Feb 25, 2014. Park announced on Tuesday, Feb 25, 2014, the creation of a committee under her direct control to wor
South Korea's President Park Geun-hye delivers a televised speech on economic reform plan at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, Feb 25, 2014. Park announced on Tuesday, Feb 25, 2014, the creation of a committee under her direct control to work out "systematic and constructive" plans for reunification of the divided Korean peninsula. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korean President Park Geun Hye announced on Tuesday the creation of a committee under her direct control to work out "systematic and constructive" plans for reunification of the divided Korean peninsula.

The presidential committee will include experts from every sector of society and map out a blueprint for expanding inter-Korean dialogue and exchanges with a view to eventual unification.

"For true peace... it is necessary to make preparations for reunification that will open a new era on the peninsula," she said in a national televised address to mark completion of her first year in office.

The speech coincided with a recent thaw in North-South ties, reflected in a six-day reunion for families divided by the Korean War.

The reunion, which was held in the north and ended on Tuesday, was the first of its kind for more than three years.

Park's address was focused on the South Korean economy which she insists - contrary to many experts - will benefit enormously from unification with North Korea.

While most studies have pointed out the enormous cost of absorbing the impoverished North, Park has highlighted what she sees as a potential "bonanza" to be reaped from the combination of South Korean technical expertise and the North's natural resources.

"I will do my best to lay the cornerstone," Park said, adding that her committee would "work out systematic and constructive directions towards reunification".

The 1950-53 Korean War concluded with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, which means the two Koreas technically remain at war.

Reunification has long been the stated priority for both Seoul and Pyongyang, but pro-merger sentiment in the prosperous South - especially among younger people - has waned considerably in recent years.

Register here to get free digital access to The Straits Times until Aug 9, 2015.
Comments