02/05/2014, 00.00
KOREA
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Seoul and Pyongyang agree: family reunions to be held on February 20

The representatives of the two governments open up to the possibility of holding meetings both directly and via the Internet. The North accepts the conditions of the South, but hopes that Seoul will cancel joint military exercises with the United States. The lat round of reunions (September 2013) was canceled at the last moment .

Seoul ( AsiaNews) - The governments of the two Koreas have agreed to a new round of reunions between families separated by the 1950 war. This latest round should be held "by the end of February." the date given by the South is 20 to 25 February. If confirmed , it would be the first of its kind since 2010. In fact, in September 2013, the reunions were canceled at the last moment by Pyongyang , which accused Seoul of "hostilities."

The decision comes less than three weeks from the start of the annual joint military operations between South Korea and the United States. The recent "war games" ( conducted in March 2013) sparked a furious reaction from Pyongyang, which opened an escalation of tension to the point of threatening U.S. bases in Guam and Hawaii with a missile attack . Immediately after both family reunions that joint industrial operations in the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Zone were canceled.

This round also seems to tied to the military exercises . Although the North has written an official letter offering a period of détente and has not mentioned the "war games" during the meetings this morning, an official of the South says the idea "is clear. But we will not fall for it:  These are exercises have been held every year for a long time, and can not be part of the pre-conditions".

According to Red Cross officials of both countries , dealing with the issue in the village of Panmujon ( where the cease- fire that ended the hostilities of 1953 was signed), both personal meetings - between February 20 to 25 at the Mount Kumgang resort on North Korean - and via computer, where family members can talk and see each other. There are about 73 thousand South Koreans who want to embrace their families left behind in the North. Of the war survivors, 9.3 % are over 90 years of age, 40.5% over 80 and 30.6% over 70. "For technical reasons" it is impossible to have the data for the North Koreans.

The direct dialogue between the two neighboring countries is the latest sign of relaxation of  relations on the peninsula after several months of high tension . Pyongyang has accepted (as in September 2013 ) a few key points imposed by Seoul : these include the possibility that family members can exchange money, the absence of cameras or security officers during the interviews; personal meetings that last longer than in the past .

Especially the first point is now a necessity for the North. The economic crisis derived from Pyongyang's absurd militaristic policy has already completely exhausted the state coffers , and the regime led by the "Young Marshal " Kim Jong-un needs of all foreign currency he can get his hands on. The remittances from family members abroad allow the government to impose high taxation and then directly collect foreign funds .

 

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