South: Reunion deal may be dead

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South: Reunion deal may be dead

The South Korean government is adamant: it will not agree to reunions for families separated by the Korean War until the issue of cross-border tourism is resolved.

“If North Korea keeps connecting the resumption of cross-border tourism with the family reunions, we will not hold the reunions at all,” said a senior Blue House official yesterday.

The remark came after a second round of talks between the North and South in Kaesong last Friday were cut short after both sides failed to come to an agreement on the venue of the reunions.

The two sides plan to hold another round of talks on Friday.

North Korea has said accommodations at the Mount Kumgang resort could be used for reunions only if tourist groups start returning to the resort.

Tours to the scenic North Korea mountain, north of Gangwon, were suspended after Park Wang-ja, a South Korean female tourist, was shot to death by a North Korean soldier in July 2008.

“North Korea should foremost comply with what we have asked for regarding the Park shooting incident,” said the government source.

The South Korean government has demanded an apology from the North, a thorough investigation into the matter, preventive safety measures for future tourists and a promise from the North that a similar incident would never happen again.

So far, the North has not taken any official action on the demands.

The Ministry of Unification last week said that North Korea has aimed for the resumption of tourism all along and the reunions were merely an excuse to demand that tourism resume.

North Korea’s state-run news agency reported after the second round of talks last week that “South Korea keeps insisting on pushing the reunions back.”

The South Korean government said last Friday that it would be impossible for the reunions to be held from Oct. 21 to 27, as was tentatively agreed upon during the first round of talks on Sept. 17, if the venue were not chosen.

“The resumption of tourism to Mount Kumgang means giving cash to North Korea, and right now it’s impossible,” said the government source.

By Christine Kim, Seo Seung-wook []
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