S. Korea to let more journalists head north

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South Korea will push to allow more journalists to travel to North Korea to cover a wider range of cross-border exchange projects such as sports and academic programs, it said yesterday.

Seoul's Unification Ministry said it will actively support sports, culture, academic and other civilian exchange programs with North Korea to improve relations as this year marks the 70th anniversary of the Korean Peninsula's division after World War II.

South Korea plans to increase government spending and inspire more diversified exchanges and permit South Korean journalists to go to North Korea to cover them.

It's unclear if North Korea will respond positively.

Unification Ministry spokeswoman Park Soo-jin said soccer and table tennis matches and joint excavation projects on historical sites could help people from the both sides to better understand each other.

Seoul had toughened restrictions on civilian trips to North Korea following the sinking of a South Korea warship in 2010. Seoul blamed North Korea, which has denied its involvement.

"The plans will have limited effect," said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the Seoul-based University of North Korean Studies, "because South Korea still isn't offering North Korea what it wants." That included the restart of joint tours to North Korea's scenic Diamond Mountain resort, Yang said.

The tourism project was suspended following the 2008 shooting death of a South Korean tourist there.

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