North Korea agrees to talks on family reunions

2014-02-03 10:00
South Korean Jung Soon-Ae and her daughter Choi Gyung-Ok waving to their North Korean relative as they bid farewell after a separated family reunion meeting on the North's southeastern coast, near the border. (File, AFP)

South Korean Jung Soon-Ae and her daughter Choi Gyung-Ok waving to their North Korean relative as they bid farewell after a separated family reunion meeting on the North's southeastern coast, near the border. (File, AFP)

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Seoul - North Korea agreed on Monday to hold talks with South Korea on organising a rare reunion event for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, Seoul's Unification Ministry said.

After days of silence following an initial proposal from Seoul last week, Pyongyang said it would be willing to participate in a meeting on Wednesday or Thursday at the border truce village of Panmunjom.

"We welcome that the North has finally come forward to discuss the reunion," Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Eui-Do told reporters.

"Given the urgency of the matter, we will make preparations to hold the reunion as soon as possible," Kim said, adding the ministry would notify Pyongyang which day it preferred for the Panmunjom meeting.

Millions of Korean families were left separated by the conflict that sealed the peninsula's division.

71 000 people

Most family members have since died without ever meeting or talking to their relatives. Cross-border visits, along with postal and phone communications, are banned for ordinary citizens.

About 71 000 people - more than half aged over 80 - are on the South's waiting list for a reunion opportunity.

Last week, South Korea proposed holding the event on 17-21 February at the North's Mount Kumgang resort.

Around 100 people from each side would take part and, if it goes ahead, it would be the first such reunion since 2010.

Seoul had also called for immediate working-level talks to hammer out the logistical details, and some officials expressed frustration over the Lunar New Year weekend that the North was taking so long to respond.

A reunion was planned for last September but Pyongyang cancelled at the last minute. There are concerns it may do the same this time around, due to planned joint South Korea-US military drills likely to begin late this month.

The drills by the two allies are held every year but are routinely condemned by the North as a rehearsal for invasion.

Read more on:    south korea  |  north korea
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