South Korea Seeks Low Cost Family Reunions

Published November 19th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

South Koreans who go to Pyongyang for the next reunion of families kept apart since the Korean War will have to pay their own way, the government announced Sunday. 

Concerned about mounting economic problems, the Unification Ministry said only minimum state subsidies would be given for the three-day reunions due to start on November 30. 

It will be the second reunion since the historic summit in Pyongyang in June that launched the current inter-Korean peace process. 

But the ministry has sent frugal guidelines to the 100 South Koreans who will go to the North's austere capital on November 30 to meet relatives they have not seen since before the 1950-53 war. 

Unlike the previous gala reunion in August, South Korean officials hope to minimize spending on events such as dinners and tours. 

South Koreans were also required to pay for the trip to North Korea. Only a select group of the very poor will receive a special 500,000-won (440-dollar) allowance. 

On Saturday, the two Koreas exchanged a list of 100 people from each side for the reunions. The South Korean list included Yu Du-Hui, a 100-year-old woman who will be reunited with her 75-year-old son in the North. 

The family meetings have been one of the most successful outcomes of the summit between South Korea's President Kim Dae-Jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il. For the South Korean public it is the most important outcome. 

The first tearful reunions of 200 people from each side took place in August. The two sides agreed at follow up talks to hold two more reunions this year. 

About 7.7 million South Koreans have relatives in North Korea but do not know if they are still alive. 

Along with family reunions, the two Koreas have agreed to restore a severed railway and road link across their heavily fortified border. 

The landmark project made progress on Saturday when North Korea proposed inter-Korean military talks. There had been concerns that Pyongyang might be shunning sensitive military discussions. 

On Friday, the US-led United Nations Command (UNC) and North Korea signed an accord on control of a corridor through the demilitarized zone (DMZ) to rebuild the railway. 

South and North Korean troops are to remove landmines along a 100 meter (yard) wide corridor so they can reconnect a railway closed at the start of the Korean War. The four-lane highway will run parallel. 

The UNC has controlled the southern part of the four kilometer (2.5 mile) wide DMZ since the devastating war ended without a permanent peace treaty. 

South Korean soldiers began removing landmines from the border areas in September. But North Korea has delayed starting its work -- SEOUL (AFP)  




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