South Korea acknowledged yesterday that relations with North Korea would be difficult after the communist nation's missile tests, but said excessive international sanctions against Pyongyang wouldn't help resolve the impasse.
South Korean Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok said yesterday it was "very regrettable" that the North has suspended family reunions and asserted Seoul's right to refuse aid.
"South Korea's decision to suspend aid is not to join sanctions, but it was an independent judgment as North Korea aggravated the situation by not taking into account South Korea's concerns and position," Lee told reporters.
Lee reaffirmed that aid to the impoverished North won't be resumed until the current situation on the peninsula improves, acknowledging that "South-North relations will be difficult for a while."
The family reunions between relatives divided by the Korean War had been a key element of reconciliation efforts since the first-and-only summit between leaders of the North and South in 2000, bringing together more than 16,300 Koreans.
North Korea told the South Korean company spearheading business in the country to pull out workers by today from a construction site on a permanent reunion center at the North's Diamond Mountain resort, site of a tourism venture that foreign tourists can freely visit.
Hyundai Asan Corp said yesterday that some 130 workers were at the site.