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ROK seeks talks with DPRK over family reunions

Updated: 2014-08-12 09:12
By Xinhua in Seoul ( China Daily)

The Republic of Korea proposed on Monday to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea that the two sides hold senior-level talks next week to discuss having another round of reunions of war-separated families.

"The government sent a proposal under the name of Kim Kyou-hyun, chief delegate of the ROK, to the DPRK via the inter-Korean communications channel this morning, proposing to hold the second inter-Korean high-level meeting," Seoul's Unification Ministry said in a statement.

The ROK proposed holding the meeting on Aug 19, considering the preparation time, and called for the DPRK to suggest a more-convenient date if necessary.

Seoul offered to meet at Tongilgak, the administrative building on the DPRK side of the truce town of Panmunjom.

The ministry said Seoul delivered its stance to Pyongyang to discuss mutual interests, including family reunions, at the high-level dialogue.

It said the ROK hoped to hold the reunions of separated families by taking the opportunity of the Chuseok holiday, one of the ROK's biggest traditional holidays, which falls on Sept 8 this year.

If the DPRK accepts the proposal, it will be the second high-level dialogue since ROK President Park Geun-hye took office in February 2013.

Kim Kyou-hyun, first deputy chief of the presidential national security office and former first vice-foreign minister, led the ROK delegation in mid-February for the first talks held at vice-ministerial-level.

At that time, the DPRK side was headed by Won Don-yon, the No 2 man at the United Front Department of the Workers' Party of Korea.

After the first high-level talks, the ROK and the DPRK made the three-point agreement, including joint efforts to improve inter-Korean ties, the end of mutual slander, and the holding of the already agreed-upon family reunion.

From Feb 20 to 25, hundreds of Koreans met their long-lost family members separated by the 1950-53 Korean War at the DPRK's scenic resort of Mount Kumgang.

Despite Pyongyang's call for delay or cancellation of joint military exercises between the ROK and the United States, the two allies staged the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle war games from Feb 24 to April 18 as originally planned.

Angered over the military drills, the DPRK fired scores of short-range missiles and artillery shells, and threatened a new nuclear test.

Seoul and Washington are scheduled to conduct another joint annual military drill, Ulchi Freedom Guardian, in August.

Pyongyang has denounced the drill as a rehearsal for an invasion of the DPRK.

A senior Unification Ministry official told reporters that the ROK will not exclude any specific agenda from the upcoming dialogue table, raising possibilities for issues the DPRK has requested to be discussed.

Pyongyang has demanded tours to the Mount Kumgang resort in the DPRK's southeast coast be resumed and the so-called May 24 sanctions on the DPRK be lifted.

The tours, launched in 1998, were halted in July 2008 when an ROK female tourist was shot dead by a DPRK soldier after she ventured into an off-limit area.

The May 24 sanctions were imposed by the ROK in 2010 when the ROK corvette Cheonan sank in waters near the disputed western maritime border with the DPRK in March that year, banning all inter-Korean exchanges except for the joint factory park in the DPRK's border town of Kaesong.

The family reunion is an urgent, humanitarian issue between the ROK and the DPRK as millions of Koreans have been separated since the Korean War fighting ended with an armistice in 1953.

Letters and phone calls between the two sides are banned.

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