N Korea threatens to cancel family reunions

2014-02-06 13:03
South Korean Defence Minister Lee Yang-Ho talks through a hotline installed in the ministry's emergency duty room. (Yonhap, AFP)

South Korean Defence Minister Lee Yang-Ho talks through a hotline installed in the ministry's emergency duty room. (Yonhap, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Seoul - North Korea threatened on Thursday to cancel a reunion later this month of Korean War-divided families because of upcoming US-South Korean military drills, causing frustration in Seoul only one day after the rivals agreed on dates for the emotional meetings.

The apparent about-face fits a pattern analysts say North Korea often follows of agreeing to things Seoul covets and then pulling back until Pyongyang gets what it wants - in this case a ratcheting down of the massive military drills by Seoul and Washington that are seen as a huge drain on impoverished North Korea's military.

The rival Koreas decided on Wednesday to restart the family reunions, which haven't been held since 2010, from 20-25 February. Before the agreement, many in Seoul were sceptical that Pyongyang would allow the reunions anytime soon because of its anger over the annual springtime military drills that are also scheduled later this month.

Pyongyang calls the drills preparation for war, while the allies say the exercises are purely defensive.

North Korea has a history of launching provocations and scrapping co-operation accords with South Korea to protest the allies' springtime drills. The country used last year's drills as a pretext for churning out near-daily threats, including vows of nuclear war against Seoul and Washington.

It also cancelled planned family reunions last September after accusing Seoul of preparing for war drills and other hostile acts.

Economic drain

On Thursday, the North's powerful National Defence Commission issued a statement warning that the reunions may not happen if South Korea goes ahead with the drills and continues slandering leader Kim Jong Un.

"It would be a nonsense to hold reunions of families and relatives separated due to the past war while extremely dangerous nuclear war drills take place," an unidentified spokesperson for the commission's policy department said in a statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

The spokesperson said North Korea "cannot help reviewing whether to implement" the accord on family reunions if "viciously defaming of our supreme leadership and groundless slandering of our system" continue.

North Korea reacts with sensitivity to any perceived negative comments about its leadership, including in South Korea's vibrant media.

The statement cited criticism of leader Kim's recent visit to an orphanage in Pyongyang, and was an apparent reference to critical South Korean media coverage that said Kim and his entourage wore their shoes inside a room. Koreans traditionally remove their shoes before entering living spaces.

Despite the North's threat, South Korea's Defence Ministry said the allies will go ahead with the weekslong drills as scheduled.

Lim Eul Chul, a North Korea expert at South Korea's Kyungnam University, said Pyongyang is apparently stepping up pressure in order to try to get Seoul to conduct the drills in a low-key manner.

Analysts believe that the annual US-South Korean drills are an economic drain on North Korea, because they often force it to respond by mobilising troops and conducting additional exercises.

Chang Yong Seok of the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University said there is a chance North Korea will cancel part of the reunions because the military drills are expected to begin before the reunions end.

Deeply emotional

North Korea last month approved a resumption of the reunion programme in the latest in a series of conciliatory gestures the country has taken in recent months.

North Korea has recently ratcheted down its typical harsh rhetoric against South Korea, a sharp departure from a year ago, when it threatened Washington and Seoul with war and vowed to restart its production of fuel for nuclear weapons.

Analysts say North Korea needs improved ties with Seoul to help attract foreign investment and aid to improve living conditions and revive its sagging economy, and that it is unlikely to abruptly cancel this month's reunions.

The Korean Peninsula officially remains at state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. About 28 500 US troops are stationed in South Korea to deter potential aggression from North Korea.

Ordinary citizens in both Koreas are not allowed to exchange phone calls, letters and emails. About 22 000 Koreans have had brief family reunions - 18 000 in person and the others by video - during periods of detente, but no one has had a second chance to meet their relatives.

There's frustration in Seoul over a perception North Korea plays politics with the deeply emotional meetings of elderly Koreans who haven't seen their loved ones in decades.

"I feel pain for the families who must be looking forward to the reunion," said Kwon Joon Young, a 22-year-old university student in the South. "I hope North Korea stops its childish acts and realises this issue has nothing to do with military drills."

- AP
Read more on:    kim jong-un  |  south korea  |  north korea  |  north korea nuclear programme
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Sport
 

Goalkeeper saves five penalties with his FACE!

Nothing, and we mean nothing, will keep goalkeeper Scott Stirling from stopping the ball!

 
 

Men24.com

Hottie of the day: Jesselyn
This invention makes farts smell like chocolate!
11 things men don’t know about their clothes
Hilarious mortal kombat elevator prank!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to 60% on toys!

Don’t miss out on this hot offer, save up to 60% on toys. While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Grandiose ideas and plans can trip you up today. Keep things in context and take one step at a time....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.