NORTH and South Korea have opened their first border liaison office to facilitate better communication and exchanges ahead of their leader’s summit in Pyongyang next week.

The office’s opening at the North Korean border town of Kaesong is the latest in a series of reconciliatory steps the Koreas have taken this year.

The office is the first of its kind since the Koreas were divided at the end of the Second World War.

The Koreas so far have been using telephone and fax-like communication channels when they want to arrange talks and exchange messages. But those channels have been often suspended when tensions rose over North Korea’s nuclear programme.

In an opening ceremony at Kaesong, South Korea’s unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon said the office will become the “cradle of Korean co-prosperity”.

“We’ll sit face to face, exchange our thoughts fast and accurately and put our heads together to resolve difficult matters,” he said in remarks distributed by his office.

About 15-20 South Korean officials are expected to stay at the office and a nearby lodging facility in Kaesong during the weekdays and take turns staffing the office on weekends, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry.

Along with North Korean officials they will discuss diplomatic issues, exchange messages and facilitate civilian exchange programmes, the ministry said.