S. Korea proposes new family reunions with N. Korea

S. Korea proposes new family reunions with N. Korea
South Korean President Park Geun-Hye speaks during her New Year news conference at the presidential Blue House in Seoul January 6, 2014.

SEOUL - South Korean President Park Geun-Hye called Monday for the resumption of reunions for families separated since the Korean War, saying the programme could help ease “grave” strains with North Korea.

Park, in a New Year press conference, also promised increased humanitarian aid to the impoverished North to improve relations at a time of growing uncertainty.

She said last month’s shock purge and execution of Jang Song-Thaek, the once-powerful uncle and political regent to young leader Kim Jong-Un, had made it harder to predict the course of cross-border relations.

The security situation on the peninsula was “more grave than ever", she said, calling for an end to “threats of war” and for the two countries to “open up an era of reunification”.

Since Jang’s execution, “no one in the world can predict what might happen to North Korea and what action it might take,” Park said.

“We are making preparations for all kinds of possibilities.”

Park said the reunion programme would provide new momentum to improving ties following years of high tensions.

The South’s Red Cross later faxed a message to its Northern counterpart, calling for a meeting at the border truce village of Panmunjom on Friday to discuss a next round of reunions, Seoul’s unification ministry said.

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