Rival Koreas agree to hold family reunions
Fri, Oct 01, 2010

SEOUL, Oct 1 (Reuters) - North and South Korea agreed on Friday to allow families separated by their 60-year old war to meet up later this month, the latest sign of a slight thaw in relations between the bitter rivals.

Ties between the two Koreas have plunged into the freezer since conservative President Lee Myung-bak took office in 2008 and ended aid to the destitute neighbour until it ended its nuclear weapons ambitions.

Tensions spiked this year after the South, with U.S. backing, accused the North of torpedoing one of its navy ships, killing 46 sailors. Pyongyang denies the charge and threatened to retaliate by force if Seoul imposed sanctions.

One hundred families from each side will be reunited with relatives they had not seen since the Korean War at a mountain resort just north of the armed border from Oct. 30 to Nov. 5, officials from the two sides agreed at a meeting on Friday.

The reunions would be the first since September last year, as tensions across the border grew with the deadly ship sinking near the disputed sea border that had been the site of naval clashes in the past.

South Korea's spy chief has said the North's provocations may be aimed at boosting the standing of the son of leader Kim Jong-il and his backers as they move forward with succession plans. Kim is believed to be in deteriorating health.

Kim has anointed his youngest son, Jong-un, as successor to lead the country, naming him to a key ruling Workers' Party post at a rare conference on Tuesday.

Last month, South Korea decided to provide emergency relief to the North to help recovery work after months of heavy rains damaged farmland and homes, the first time in three years it gave a substantial package of aid to the impoverished neighbour.



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