North Korea accepts talks offer from South Korea, meeting to be held January 9

SEOUL — North and South Korea will hold official talks on Jan. 9, South Korea's unification ministry said on Friday, after Pyongyang sent a statement accepting Seoul's offer for talks next week.

The agenda will include the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics as well as other issues of mutual interest, ministry spokesman Baek Tae-hyun told reporters.

"We received the official message from North Korea at 10:16 KST (8:16 PM ET Thursday) that they accept our proposal for holding the talks on Jan 9 at the Peace House. We also agreed to conduct the details of working level matters by exchanging documents," said Baek. "The agenda is on matters regarding Pyeongchang Olympic games as well as issue concerning improving inter-Korean ties."

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"The signees to the documents from North Korea will be Ri Son Gwon, the chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland and the Minister of Unification, Cho Myoung Gyon, from South Korean side," he said.

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South Korea’s peace overture earlier this week was in response to comments made by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in a New Year’s Day speech. He suggested immediate talks with Seoul over sending a delegation to the Olympics.

Two North Korean figure skaters have qualified for the Winter Games, which are due to begin on Feb. 9. Kim’s speech, however, was the first time Pyongyang has suggested it is seriously considering sending them to PyeongChang, which is in the South but about 50 miles from the North Korean border. The neighbors have officially remain at war since 1953.

Image: South Korea proposes talks with North Korea
A North Korean soldier takes photos of South Korean and United Nations officials at the Panmunjom border village on July 27. Jeon Heon-Kyun / Pool via EPA file