Seoul offers Sept. 25 for talks about Kumgang

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Seoul offers Sept. 25 for talks about Kumgang

South Korea accepted North Korea’s proposal for talks to reopen the Mount Kumgang Resort following their agreement to hold separate talks for restarting reunions of war-separated families.

According to the Unification Ministry, South Korea sent a counterproposal to Pyongyang through liaison officials at Panmunjom to hold low-level talks for resuming tours to Mount Kumgang resort on Sept. 25 at the resort itself.

“Rather than hurrying for talks, we proposed holding the meeting in Mount Kumgang,” a statement released by the ministry read.

The official said South Korea is putting priority on the reunions for the families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War.

“Given the sad reality that the aging family members are dying, we need to successfully carry out the family reunions first,” the statement said, “because it is a purely humanitarian issue.”

As of press time, North Korea hadn’t responded to the Mount Kumgang talks offer.

In a Liberation Day speech on Aug. 15, President Park Geun-hye proposed restarting the reunions, which haven’t been held since November 2010, ahead of the Chuseok holidays in September.

Pyongyang accepted the proposal but made an additional suggestion to hold more talks to resume the Mount Kumgang tours, which were stopped after a South Korean tourist was fatally shot by a North Korean soldier in July 2008.

As of press time, the two sides had not reached agreement on where to hold the talks for the reunions.

Pyongyang wants them to be held on Mount Kumgang, while Seoul wants the Peace House in South Korean territory in the border village of Panmunjom.

While the two Koreas are cooperating on the two issues, Pyongyang broke its silence on joint Korea-U.S. military drills that started this week, calling President Park Geun-hye’s remarks at a high-level defense meeting held on the first day of the exercise “an overt provocation.”

The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, a North Korean mouthpiece on inter-Korean affairs, lashed out at the National Security Council, which Park convened on Monday in a bunker beneath the presidential mansion. During the meeting, she called on the country’s military to stay vigilant in case of a war.

“If the Southern administration attempts to continue its confrontations against us, North-South relations will once again go back to square one,” an unnamed spokesperson from the committee said in a statement released by the Korean Central News Agency yesterday. The North Korean committee described Park’s comment as “pouring cold water” on the current dialogue-friendly mood.

North Korea did not directly mention the ongoing Seoul-Washington Ulchi Freedom Guardian military drill that started Monday, but Seoul sees the criticism as a protest against the exercise.

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