Korean family reunions snub sours reconciliatory mood

Korean family reunions snub sours reconciliatory mood

A number of South Korean elderly people who were to meet their seperated families in North Korea cried after Pyongyang postponed the family reunions

Pyongyang on Saturday dampened the emerging mood for inter-Korean reconciliation as it unilaterally postponed the cross-border reunions of separated families slated for this week.

In a strongly worded statement, Seoul called the delay "inhumane" and upbraided the North for putting off the reunions slated for September 25-30 at Mount Geumgangsan for political reasons. It also warned of a "stern" response.

The North in return blamed conservatives in the South for fomenting confrontation and further hampering the mood for a thaw in bilateral ties.

Analysts say the North is apparently using the humanitarian issue to pressure the South to take a positive stance toward the resumption of the long-stalled tours to Mount Geumgangsan a crucial source of hard currency for the cash-strapped country.

Following the North's announcement, some 70 South Korean officials, who were at the mountain resort making preparations for the reunions, withdrew and returned to Seoul on Sunday. About 100 individuals from each side were to meet their long-lost families during the first reunions in three years.

The North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification, which announced the postponement, accused Seoul of abusing bilateral dialogue as a "tool for confrontation." It said the reunions would be delayed until a "normal atmosphere for dialogue is forged."

The committee also put off the bilateral talks over the resumption of the Geumgang tour programme, which were scheduled for Oct. 2.

"Inter-Korean relations are heading toward another crisis that can't be overlooked, due to the reckless, vicious commotion (to cause) confrontation by the South's conservatives," said the committee in a statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

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