One more try on family reunions

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One more try on family reunions

Unification Minister Hong Soon-young told reporters Thursday that Seoul plans to propose inter-Korean Red Cross talks with the North, perhaps next week.

Seoul wants to arrange another separated family reunion on lunar New Year's Day, Feb. 12.

Mr. Hong tried to forestall any grumbling about Seoul's taking the initiative to propose the talks, saying who asked first was not a matter of national pride.

Seoul and Pyeongyang had agreed on a fourth round of reunions to be held last October, but the North postponed the event indefinitely, saying that Seoul's heightened military alert in the wake of the U.S. terrorist attacks made it unsafe for its citizens to travel here. It proposed a reunion only on its own territory.

"Frozen inter-Korean relations will be improved if we resume reunions of separated families, hold government-level talks to revive the money-losing Mount Geumgang tourism business and implement inter-Korean economic cooperation agreements," Mr. Hong said. "Restoring the Gyeongui railroad line and building military trust will come next."

Mr. Hong called collaboration like the family reunions and other contacts the key to resolving tensions on the peninsula.

The Unification Ministry said its agenda for this year includes the institution of a routine system for separated family reunions and the establishment of a basis for an inter-Korean economic community.

by Lee Young-jong

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