Four South Korean government ministers visited islands near the border with North Korea on Saturday to hear the opinions of local residents about turning the area into what's being called a "peace zone" in accordance with the Panmunjom Declaration.
Visiting the islands of Baengnyeong-do and Yeonpyeong-do... were the ministers of foreign affairs, unification, defense and fisheries.
Park Ji-won reports.
The islands of Baengnyeongdo and Yeonpyeongdo... are located just south of the Northern Limit Line, a de facto maritime border between South and North Korea in the West Sea.
Saturday's visit by the four South Korean ministers was aimed at listening to the residents' opinions on the Panmunjom Declaration,... the agreement between two Koreas reached at the inter-Korean summit on April 27th.
The two Koreas agreed to turn the areas around the Northern Limit Line into a "maritime peace zone" in order to prevent accidental military clashes and to guarantee safe fishing.
The line was drawn in 1953 after the Korean War,... and had been respected by both Koreas... until the North declared a new maritime border back in 1999. Since then, the areas near the NLL have been a powder keg in inter-Korean relations,... with several naval skirmishes breaking out over the decades.
Most of the people who live in the area make their living through fishing.
South Korea's ministers of foreign affairs, unification, defense and fisheries said to representatives of the residents... that they'd like to know what the locals think... before negotiating further with North Korea about the peace zone.
In response,... the residents offered their insights on how to best manage the area for the prosperity and stability of the islands.
The representatives said they basically agree with the idea of a peace zone,.. but they gave the ministers specific ideas on how to effectively designate joint fishing areas with the North... to preserve the region's fishing resources.
The residents also urged the government to prevent Chinese vessels from fishing in the area illegally.
The ministers vowed that South Korea will keep the NLL intact in negotiations with the North... and will try to listen to the residents in the process.
More details about turning the areas near NLL into a peace zone are to be discussed at general-level military talks between South and North Korea... slated to be held later this month.
Park Ji-won, Arirang News.