Reunion talks reach agreement

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Reunion talks reach agreement

Family members who were separated by the Korean War will be reunited with their kin after nearly 60 years as North and South Korea came to terms on the venue for family reunions.

During the third round of working-level talks held between the two Koreas in Kaesong, the parties agreed that the reunions would be held starting Oct. 30 and finish Nov. 5.

The families will be reunited with their loved ones at the reunion center and Mount Kumgang Hotel, both located at the Mount Kumgang tourism resort.

The first two rounds of talks, which each took place on Sept. 17 and 24, forced both parties to go home empty-handed after North Korea demanded the resumption of cross-border tours as a pre-condition to the reunions.

The South Korean government had stated that resuming the tours was a “separate problem.”

Tours to the mountain were halted in 2008 after a South Korean tourist was killed by a North Korean soldier.

“We are firm in that the reunions should not be connected to any other matters because the reunions are a humanitarian issue,” said Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung yesterday.

According to the ministry, North Korea agreed to hold this round of reunions at the resort without strings attached, although it emphasized the importance of meetings between the two Koreas to settle the cross-border tourism issue.

In yesterday’s agreement, 100 family members from each side of the DMZ will be selected in the coming days to participate in the reunions.

A list of 200 reunion candidates will be exchanged on Oct. 5 to confirm surviving family members on the other side. The results will be swapped on Oct. 18 and the final list confirmed on Oct. 20.

A team from each Korea will be sent to the reunion grounds for preparations five days before the reunions, which will be divided into two sessions of three days each - the first for North Korean participants and the latter for the South. Roughly 200 to 300 family members are expected to show up for each party of 100.

South Korea had initially requested to regularize the reunions on a larger scale to help more separated family members reunite, but North Korea refused in this round of negotiations.

As a result, the two Koreas will hold Red Cross talks beginning Oct. 26 for two days in Kaesong to discuss making reunions more frequent, as well as other humanitarian issues.

By Christine Kim []
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