South Korea Rejects North's 'Bland' Message

South Korea has dismissed as "bland" a New Year message from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in which he urged a lessening of tensions between the two countries.

In the first televised New Year's Day message by a North Korean leader in 19 years, Kim stressed the importance of improving his impoverished country's economy and improving relations between the two Koreas, which are technically still at war.

"An important issue in putting an end to the division of the country and achieving its reunification is to remove confrontation between the North and the South," he said.

"The past records of inter-Korean relations show that confrontation between fellow countrymen leads to nothing but war," he added.

As far as the North Korean economy was concerned, the country's leader said the people should look to the way they had handled their efforts in space to tackle their economic problems.

"The industrial revolution in the new century is, in essence, a scientific and technological revolution, and breaking through the cutting edge is a shortcut to the building of an economic giant," he said.

"Let us bring about a radical turn in the building of an economic giant with the same spirit and mettle as were displayed in conquering space," he said.

But the South Koreans were not impressed. "The message was bland and there were no ground-breaking proposals," unification minister Yu Woo-ik told reporters.

Mr Yu said Kim's remarks may have been aimed at new or transitional leaderships in China, Japan and South Korea, and Seoul had good historical reasons for treating peace overtures warily.

Efforts to engage Pyongyang with "good intentions" in the past had made little progress, he said.

South Korean president-elect Park Geun-hye, who will take office in February, has signalled a desire for greater engagement with the North.

Commentators say Kim is trying to follow the path of his grandfather, Kim il-sung, who routinely addressed his people on New Year's Day and left them with fond memories

By contrast his father, Kim Jong-il, did not give a single TV address during his 17-year rule.