North, South Korea hold talks on family reunions

North, South Korea hold talks on family reunions
Head of the North Korean working-level delegation, Park Yong-il (C) is greeted by a South Korean delegate as he crosses a concrete border (bottom) which separates the two Koreas.

SEOUL- North and South Korea held talks Friday on resuming reunions for families separated for decades by the 1950-53 Korean War as they seek to build on a recent easing of cross-border tensions.

The reunion programme was suspended after the North's shelling of a South Korean border island in November 2010, and its resumption would mark a symbolic but important step.

The talks, between North and South Korean Red Cross officials, took place in the border "truce" village of Panmunjom, where the 1953 ceasefire ending hostilities was signed.

"The issue of separated families is one of the most urgent tasks," the head of the South's Red Cross delegation told reporters on his way to the venue.

"I will do my best to relieve their pain," he was quoted as saying by the Yonhap news agency.

The talks were almost derailed by a debate over the venue, with the North wanting the meeting to be held at its Mount Kumgang resort.

As well as the family reunions, the North is keen to restart South Korean tours to Mount Kumgang, but Seoul insists that the two issues should not be linked together.

The South suspended the tours in 2008 after a North Korean soldier shot dead a female tourist who strayed into a restricted zone.

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