South Korea Calls for More Reunions of Separated Families

Published December 13th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

South Korea on Wednesday pressed the rival North to increase the reunions of separated families and to open a reunion center in March. 

The proposal was made by the South's Unification Minister Park Jae-Kyu at inter-Korean ministers' talks in Pyongyang. 

Park suggested the South and North hold another round of Red Cross talks in February to discuss details for setting up a reunion center, according to pooled media reports from Pyongyang. 

He also called on the two sides to start mail exchanges between separated families this year and hold a third round of family reunions take place before the Lunar New Year on January 24. 

Reactions from Park's counterpart, the North's top official on inter-Korean affairs, Jon Kum-Jin, were not known immediately. 

The fourth round of ministerial talks since the June summit between the leaders of the rival states are due to last until Friday. 

The two sides said greater efforts needed to be made to maintain the thaw on the Korean peninsula launched by the summit. 

Park said: "There are some minor ups and downs in implementing the June 15 declaration but we must not concentrate on small things which could undermine the big things." 

There have been no postal or telephone contacts since the end of the 1950-1953 Korean war and the border has remained one of the key flashpoints of the Cold War. 

Since the June summit two reunions, involving 200 people from each side, have been held. A third was to be held before the end of the year but the North has called off talks on organizing the meetings several times. 

Yonhap news agency said Park had also complained about the North's threats to boycott family reunions after the South Korean Red Cross chief criticized the lack of freedom in the communist North in a magazine interview. 

He expressed regret that the North briefly detained a newspaper photographer during the last family reunions in Pyongyang this month. 

The North in turn protested over a South Korean defense ministry white paper released last week, which calls Pyongyang the "main enemy," reports said. 

The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) strongly attacked the defense ministry policy document, saying it was an attempt to block "the positive improvement of the inter-Korean relations." 

The KCNA commentary said South Korea's Defense Minister Cho Seong-Tae had "whipped up war hysteria by calling for strengthened 'military posture'." 

"All the happenings in South Korea are anti-national and anti-reunification moves to dampen the desire of the entire nation for reconciliation, cooperation and unity between the North and South," declared KCNA. 

On his arrival Tuesday, the South Korean minister said: "There is some public opinion in the South that the fever for inter-Korean cooperation is cooling." 

The North's chief negotiator said Wednesday "everything is moving well and unification fever is high. It is true that there are some ups and downs but they are nothing compared to the unification fever." 

The North's campaign to break its diplomatic isolation was given a boost Tuesday when Britain announced the establishment of relations. 

North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong-Il is expected to visit the South next year. The South's President Kim Dae-Jung said he expected to make an agreement that was "more far-reaching than the June 15 joint declaration." 

There has been media speculation this could mean withdrawing troops from the tense frontier or concluding a full peace treaty -- SEOUL (AFP)  

 

 

 

 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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