Sun, Feb 19, 2012 - Page 5 News List

N Korea rejects S Korea call for talks on reunions

AFP, SEOUL

An undated photo released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency yesterday shows North Korean servicemen marching during a military parade to pay respects to former North Korean leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il and pledge loyalty to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang.

Photo: AFP

North Korea yesterday rejected South Korea’s call for talks aimed at restarting reunions for families separated since the Korean War, saying Seoul should first respond to its conditions for dialogue.

South Korea’s Red Cross on Tuesday proposed the talks to discuss a resumption of the temporary reunions for family members separated since the 1950-1953 war.

Pyongyang’s Minju Joson newspaper accused Seoul of talking about reunions and other exchanges while secretly seeking sanctions.

If South Korea was genuinely interested in family reunions and other exchanges, the paper said, it should reply to a “questionnaire” addressed to Seoul’s leaders this month.

The questionnaire told the South’s leaders to “repent of their crimes” following the Dec. 17 death of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and to honor past summit agreements.

It accused them of showing disrespect during the mourning period for Kim and told them to halt major exercises with US troops and halt “vicious” smear campaigns.

South Korea has dismissed the demands as unreasonable.

Hundreds of thousands of family members were separated during the war, which sealed the division of the peninsula. There are no civilian mail or telephone connections across the border, and many do not even know whether their relatives are alive or dead.

The last temporary reunions, arranged by the two Koreas’ Red Cross authorities, but authorized by governments on both sides, -began in October 2010.

Plans for further events were scrapped after the North shelled a frontline island in South Korea in November that year, killing four people.

Since 2000, sporadic events have briefly reunited more than 17,000 people face-to-face and an estimated 3,700 — usually those too frail to travel — via video link.

However, 80,000 people in the South alone are on the waiting list for reunions and thousands die every year before getting their chance.

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