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Two Koreas set for more talks on family reunions
Fri, Oct 01, 2010
AFP

SEOUL - A South Korean team crossed the border Friday for more talks with North Korea about restarting a reunion programme for families separated by war 60 years ago, officials said.

The South's delegation crossed in the morning en route for the nearby town of Kaesong where the talks will be held, the unification ministry said.

"We will try to reach an agreement on the venue (for reunions) and other details, including the number of families to be reunited," South Korea's chief delegate Kim Ui-Do told journalists before he left for Kaesong.

The meeting comes a day after North Korea threatened to open fire at South Korean sites where anti-Pyongyang activists float propaganda leaflets across the border denouncing the North's leader Kim Jong-Il.

The North's delegation chief made the threat at military talks with the South - the first for two years.

The military talks ended without progress, after Seoul demanded an apology from Pyongyang for the deadly sinking of a warship in March.

Any resumption of the family reunions after a year-long break could help ease months of high tensions sparked by the March sinking of a South Korean warship that Seoul blames on the North.

But talks on restarting the programme got bogged down after Pyongyang pressed Seoul to lift its ban on lucrative cross-border commercial tours to the jointly-run Mount Kumgang resort in the North.

The South accuses the North of trying to politicise a humanitarian programme by linking it to the resumption of tourism.

Tens of thousands of Koreans on both sides of the heavily fortified border have not seen family members since the 1950-53 war. There are no civilian mail or phone services and many do not even know whether relatives are alive or dead.

Only about 20,800 family members have joined the reunions - one fifth of these via video link - since the programme began in earnest in 2000. The face-to-face reunions typically last three days.

About 80,000 elderly people in the South alone are desperate for a chance to see loved ones but officials say up to 4,000 of them die each year before getting the chance.

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