Two major groups of Korean residents of Japan that were at loggerheads have been showing signs of mending relations since South Korean President Kim Dae Jung visited Pyongyang in June for the first-ever summit between the two Koreas.

The two groups — the pro-Seoul Korean Residents Union in Japan (Mindan) and the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryun) — recently agreed for the first time to set up a mechanism for consultations with each other, sources said.

Senior Mindan officials visited Chongryun headquarters in Tokyo on Monday to convey their agreement with a Chongryun proposal to establish such a mechanism and repair their relations.

The Mindan officials have also offered a counterproposal to set up a joint panel to discuss joint projects, and Chongryun promised to look into the proposal, they said.

Chongryun Vice Chairman Nam Sung U and other top officials made their first visit to Mindan on Aug. 24 to discuss cooperation. The move followed Mindan’s call for dialogue to realize the unification of the two groups, as outlined in a statement issued June 15 immediately after the inter-Korean summit.

Nam met with Ku Mun Ho, deputy leader of Mindan, and submitted a proposal calling for the establishment of a consultative group and projects to promote reconciliation in line with the joint declaration.

The two groups have long been antagonistic toward each other and still oppose each other on various policies, including Japan’s move to give permanent residents voting rights in local elections.

Mindan supports such rights, whereas Chongryun opposes them.

However, local branches of the two groups have been increasing exchanges and jointly taking part in local events, while their headquarters issued statements urging dialogue and cooperation between the two groups immediately after the June inter-Korean summit.

Neither Mindan nor Chongryun has released the number of their membership. According to a 1994 study by the Public Security Investigation Agency, there were approximately 370,000 Korean residents of Japan listed as pro-Mindan and 250,000 as pro-Chongryun, out of a population of 680,000.

Chongryun plans to send a 63-member delegation to South Korea for a weeklong visit to their hometowns starting Sept. 22, sources said.

It would be the first time the group sends a mission to the South, the sources said.

Quoting sources at Chongryun, the visit is being organized under the auspices of the South Korean Red Cross Society on humanitarian grounds.

They will leave from Narita airport Sept. 22 — on temporary passports to be issued by the South Korean government — and plan to visit their hometowns, relatives and family graves. They are scheduled to return six days later.

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