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June 23, 2017

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Seoul sees window for change in Pyongyang after Kim's death

SEOUL -- The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il raised uncertainty but also opened a window for change in the communist state, South Korea's top official for cross-border ties said Wednesday.

"Chairman Kim Jong Il's death heightened uncertainties," Unification Minister Yu Woo Ik said in a speech to a forum.

"North Korea also faces opportunities for changes. I urge the North to drop its old attitude and take the road for reconciliation, exchange and cooperation."

Yu said the North's past provocations had ostracized it from the rest of the world, but he called for cross-border dialogue on all pending issues.

While its economy had missed out on industrialization and globalization, "if the North decides on improving people's livelihood, the South is ready to lend a helping hand," Yu said.

The North has stressed that its policy remains unchanged after Kim Jong Un succeeded his father Kim Jong Il, who died on Dec. 17.

Pyongyang has vowed never to deal with the South's conservative government, accusing it of failing to respect a mourning period for the late leader.

Military tensions have been high since the South accused the North of responsibility for two border incidents in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans.

Some analysts believe the untested young leader may stage a border provocation to bolster his credentials with the North's powerful military.

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