North says yes to talks on reunions, Kumgang

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North says yes to talks on reunions, Kumgang

North Korea yesterday accepted the South’s proposal to hold talks this week to discuss the resumption of long-stalled reunions of war-separated families and also proposed talks to restart Mount Kumgang tourism.

A spokesman of the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said through a statement released by the official Korean Central News Agency that “the reunions of separated families and relatives should be held on the occasion of the upcoming Chuseok holiday at Mount Kumgang.”

The North also proposed family reunions through video conferences around Oct. 4 to coincide with the anniversary of the 2007 inter-Korean summit.

The North agreed to hold the reunion talks on Aug. 23 after Seoul proposed low-level, Red Cross talks last Friday. President Park Geun-hye first made the proposal in a Liberation Day address last Thursday to resume reunions of families divided during the 1950-53 Korean War around the Chuseok holiday next month. She proposed they be held at the Peace House on the southern territory of the border village of Panmunjom. The North proposed the talks be held in Mount Kumgang.

The South, however, responded yesterday evening by repeating its offer for reunion talks to be held in Panmunjom as it originally proposed.

In addition, the North proposed working-level talks to restart Mount Kumgang tours next Thursday, a day earlier than the family reunion talks. The tours were stopped in 2008 when a South Korean tourist was fatally shot by a North Korean guard.

The South Korean government did not respond as of press time last night to the proposed Mount Kumgang talks.

The new talks follow a breakthrough negotiation between Seoul and Pyongyang last Wednesday, which will lead to the reopening of the jointly run Kaesong Industrial Complex, which has been idle since April after the North pulled its workers out.

On July 10, in the midst of negotiations over Kaesong, the North abruptly proposed a package of deals to improve inter-Korean relations, including resuming the family reunions and the tours to Mount Kumgang. It withdrew the proposal when Seoul said it wanted to resolve the Kaesong issue before discussing Mount Kumgang.

Reunions of families have not been held since November 2010 due to strained inter-Korean relations.

Hyundai Asan, which conducts the Mount Kumgang tours in North Korea, welcomed the news yesterday.

BY SARAH KIM, LEE YOUNG-JONG [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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