Seoul proposes cross-border talks on floods, families

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Seoul proposes cross-border talks on floods, families

By Yoo Jee-ho
South Korea yesterday proposed to North Korea two separate talks to discuss the prevention of flooding at a river that runs across the border as well as the resumption of reunions for separated families.

The Unification Ministry in Seoul announced yesterday that the South Korean government proposed to hold talks tomorrow in Kaesong, north of the border, on flood prevention at the Imjin River.

Six South Koreans were swept to their deaths after dam water released unannounced by the North Koreans on Sept. 6 surged along the Imjin.

Chun Hae-sung, the ministry spokesman, said the South’s communique was sent under the name of Chung Jong-hwan, the land minister, and was addressed to his North Korean counterpart, Pak Song-nam. Chun explained that the two Koreas would talk about preventing a recurrence of the sudden discharge last month and also about the South’s demand for an apology for the incident.

In the aftermath of the fatal deluge, the South asked for an apology and a proper explanation. But Pyongyang only said it released water from a dam to control surging water levels and that it would issue warnings in the future.

The ministry also announced yesterday that the National Red Cross in Seoul proposed working-level talks this Friday at Mount Kumgang with the North’s Red Cross over the resumption of the family reunions and other humanitarian issues. Families separated during the Korean War were briefly reunited from Sept. 26 to Oct. 1 this year, in the first such meeting in two years. It was the 17th family reunion, but the two Koreas have yet to set a date for a future meeting.

During this year’s reunions, the North Korean Red Cross asked the South to extend a “goodwill measure,” indirectly requesting rice and fertilizer aids. Pressed for definition of the “humanitarian” issues in this proposed discussion, Chun, the unification ministry spokesman, said it was “inappropriate” to speculate on the specific agenda of the discussion and added, “The family reunion is at the top of our priority list.” South Korean officials have said they will not link the inter-Korean exchange to family reunions.

In another development, North Korea, which hadn’t responded to either proposal by press time yesterday, fired five short-range missiles on the east coast.

A South Korean government source said the missiles appeared to have been fired from the Musudan-ri base in North Hamgyong, the site from which the North’s previous missile launches were fired earlier this year.

By Yoo Jee-ho []

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