Koreas to hold new round of talks on reuniting families separated by war

September 24, 2010 12:34 pm 

By Sam Kim

SEOUL, Sept. 24 (PNA/Yonhap) — South Korean Red Cross officials crossed into North Korea on Friday for the second time in a week for talks aimed at clearing hurdles blocking the resumption of temporary reunions of families separated by the Korean War.

The two sides failed to agree on the venue for such reunions — the first of their kind in a year if held — when they met in the North Korean border town of Kaesong last Friday.

The South demanded specifically that its reunion center at the joint tourism complex on the North's east coast be used while the North has stayed vague about it.

"The discussions will revolve around the reunion venue for the moment," Kim Eyi-do, a South Korean Unification Ministry official who heads the Red Cross delegation, told reporters before departing for the North for the new round of talks in Kaesong.

Analysts say the North appeared to be trying to coax South Korea into resuming its cross-border tours to the Mount Kumgang resort. Since a South Korean woman was shot to death while wandering near the resort in July 2008, Seoul has suspended the tours, demanding Pyongyang allow an on-site probe and eliminate safety concerns.

Angry with the suspension, North Korea either froze or seized all South Korean facilities at the resort earlier this year, lambasting Seoul for its losses that had been incurred due the suspension of the tours.

North Korea said earlier this week it would send two officials in charge of the tourism project to the new round of negotiations on family reunions in Kaesong. The South, which does not acknowledge the validity of the North's seizure of its facilities, responded by saying that its existing Red Cross delegates would be tasked with handling the issue.

South and North Korea remain divided by their heavily armed border after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce. More than 80,000 South Koreans are waiting for a chance to be reunited, however briefly, with their loved ones who were left in the North after the war ended. An average of nearly 260 die each month, according to the Red Cross, South Korea's main channel for humanitarian cooperation with the North.

South Korea also demands that North Korea allow the number of families reunited each time to be increased drastically, citing their age. North Korea proposed last week that about 100 families from each side be reunited in the next round while the South is hoping for more.

The series of meetings in the North come amid a renewed peace offensive by the North, which has proposed military talks with the South and freed the seven-man crew of a South Korean fishing boat that it had captured in the East Sea last month. (PNA/Yonhap)

ALM/mlc

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