SEOUL. — South Korea and the Democratic People’ s Republic of Korea began working-level contact at the border village of Panmunjeom yesterday to sort out details on the agreed reunion of separated families. Three delegates from both sides began the reunion talks at Tongilgak, an administrative building on the DPRK side of the truce village of Panmunjeom, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said.
Seoul and Pyongyang agreed on Monday to hold talks between Red Cross officials to discuss preparations necessary for the reunion event.
On January 24, the two Koreas agreed on the reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War at the DPRK’s scenic Mount Kumgang resort.
Seoul proposed the reunion be held from February 17 to 22, which Pyongyang had agreed to. “I’ll do my best to deliver good news to separated families and step off on the right foot to improve inter-Korean relations,” Lee Duk-Haeng, chief South Korean delegate and committee member of the South Korean Red Cross, told reporters before heading to the dialogue venue. The two Koreas originally planned to hold the reunion in late September last year for relatives of both sides who failed to meet each other for six decades as the civil war ended in armistice, not peace treaty.
The DPRK, however, abruptly delayed the reunion at the last minute. At that time, Pyongyang sought to link the humanitarian event to resuming tour to Mount Kumgang, a scenic resort in the DPRK’s southeast coast, but Seoul tried to deal with the reunion issue separately from the tourism issue.
If the reunion is to be held this month as agreed, it would be the first in three years. Around 22 000 Koreans met their relatives through 18 rounds of reunion held between 1985 and 2010. Concerns remained ahead of annual military exercises between Seoul and Washington. South Korean military has confirmed that it will conduct the Key Resolve and the Foal Eagle war games with the United States from late February to April as scheduled, noting that the military drills are defensive in nature.
Some worried that Pyongyang may delay the family reunion date during the working-level talks due to the joint military drills, which the DPRK has denounced as the rehearsal for a northward invasion. — Xinhua.