North poses idea of holding reunions in spring

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North poses idea of holding reunions in spring

North Korea floated the possibility of having a fresh reunion of separated families this spring as it reiterated a call for resuming inter-Korean Red Cross talks.

Choi Song-ik, vice chairman of the central committee of the Red Cross of the North Korea, said in an interview with the pro-Pyongyang, Japan-based Choson Sinbo on Saturday that “the North is willing to start having a reunion of the scattered families and relatives beginning this spring” as part of stabilizing the North-South humanitarian exchange.

Last October, the two Koreas, as a result of cooperation between their Red Cross organizations, held the first family reunion in 13 months, allowing about 200 people from the two Koreas to meet their families living separately for decades after the Korean War.

The North and South Red Cross were scheduled to have another meeting at the end of November to discuss regular family reunions, but didn’t meet due to the North’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island on Nov. 23.

On Jan. 10, the North proposed Red Cross talks and sent a letter containing the proposal to the South on Feb. 1. Choi said the letter was “written in earnest.”

“Our proposal of a [Red Cross] meeting is still effective and we are waiting for an answer from the South’s Red Cross,” Choi said.

The interview was made as the North is beefing up its conciliatory overture toward the South and proposing having inter-Korean talks on various fronts.

The first inter-Korean military talks since the Yeonpyeong shelling will start with a working-level meeting tomorrow at the truce village of Panmunjom. Choi said now that the military talks are held, there is no reason that the Red Cross meeting cannot be held. “The humanitarian issues through the Red Cross should not be linked with political issues as the South has long argued,” he said.


By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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