Proposal on Red Cross talks

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Proposal on Red Cross talks

The South Korean Red Cross sent a statement yesterday to its counterpart in the North, suggesting May 4 as a date for working Red Cross talks at Panmunjom.

Yesterday’s statement came in a response to a previous request from the North Korean Red Cross on April 22. The North demanded that the two Koreas talk to “solve the problem” of the four North Koreans who defected after they were found drifting in a fishing boat in the Yellow Sea with 27 others. North Korea has repeatedly asked that the South return the four. The South Korean government has been adamant that the four defected on their own.

The statement yesterday also called for the two Koreas to discuss the issue of South Koreans being held captive in North Korea, referring to POWs who were kept from returning to South Korea after the Korean War, and to other kidnapped South Koreans.

North Korea has never officially admitted that the POWs exist but has insisted that those who stayed behind after the war did so of their own accord. About 500 South Korean POWs are presumed to be in North Korea but because the majority of them are now quite old, escaping is no longer a physical possibility for many. Seoul also believes that since the end of the Korean war 517 South Koreans have been detained in the North.

Several analysts have pointed out that yesterday’s statement could result in North Korea trying to exploit the unexpected issue of POWs. The possibility exists that the North could halt its requests for the four North Korean defectors and put an end to the POW issue entirely. “We are not saying that the four defectors are on an equal level with the POWs and kidnapped South Koreans,” said an official from the South Korean Ministry of Unification yesterday, explaining that the matters are two separate issues.


By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [연합]
한적, 북에 적십자 실무접촉 제의
'귀순자 자유의사 확인 협의하자'
정부는 27일 북측이 요구하는 귀순자 4명의 자유의사 확인을 위한 남북 적십자 실무접촉을 가질 것을 북측에 제의했다고 밝혔다.

통일부는 이날 대한적십자사 명의로 북한 조선적십자회에 전통문을 보내 "오는 5월4일 오전 10시 판문점 평화의 집에서 적십자 실무접촉을 하자고 제의했다"고 설명했다.

우리 측은 전통문에서 귀순한 4명의 자유의사를 확인하는 문제와 동시에 자유의사에 반해 북한 지역에 억류된 우리 국민에 대한 자유의사를 확인하는 문제를 논의하는 것이 필요하다는 입장을 북측에 전달했다.

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