North Korea Delays Family Reunion Talks
North Korea on Sunday proposed a delay in new talks with South Korea on reuniting families separated by the 50-year Cold War, saying it was too busy to meet on Wednesday as scheduled.
North Korea's Red Cross sent a message through the truce village of Panmunjom, the only border contact point between the two sides, South Korean Red Cross officials said.
The talks on more family reunions were to have gone ahead Wednesday at Panmunjom.
South and North Korean Red Cross officials have arranged two rounds of family reunions, in August and two weeks ago, as part of a reconciliation accord signed during a landmark inter-Korean summit in June.
"We believe a postponement is inevitable because of our year-end situation and schedules between the two sides," a senior North Korea Red Cross official, Choe Sung-Chol, was reported as saying in the telephone message.
But he stressed that the two sides could resume talks on family reunions next year.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency said Seoul would accept the North's proposal.
The two Koreas were to have another family reunions before the end of the year, along with other talks on ending hostility since the 1950-53 Korean War.
The reunions have hit a number of problems and disputes in recent weeks, on top of delayed talks between the two sides.
During the second family get-together two weeks ago, North Korea held a South Korean journalist for making cynical comments about its leader.
The family reunions were also threatened by an interview South Korean Red Cross head Chang Choong-Shik gave to Chosun magazine last month.
Speaking about his visit to Pyongyang in August, Chang vaguely described North Korea as a poor country lacking freedom.
In response North Korea threatened to boycott the family reunions and demanded his resignation.
Chang missed the latest reunions. He flew unexpectedly to Japan, sparking criticism by South Korean newspapers and opposition lawmakers, that the government was swallowing insults to safeguard the reconciliation process.
An estimated 7.7 million South Koreans, including 1.2 million who fled the North during the 1950-53 Korean War, still have relatives in the communist state -- SEOUL (AFP)
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