08/19/2013, 00.00
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Pyongyang and Seoul negotiate to resume 'family reunifications'

The meetings between relatives separated by the Korean War was suspended in 2010. The North is willing to discuss a new schedule of visits and invites a delegation from the South to Mount Kumgang to "study the logistics for meetings". And this during joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea

Seoul (AsiaNews) - The government of North Korea has agreed to "reopen talks" with the South to organize family reunions, or meetings between those who, after the Korean War (1950/1953) were separated by the border laid down across the middle of the peninsula. The meetings have been suspended since 2010 and could start again on September 19th, for Chuseok, the Korean "Thanksgiving".

Pyongyang has asked Seoul to meet to discuss the issue at the Mount Kumgang tourist complex which is located in North Korean territory, and not in the village of Panmujom: this is in the Demilitarized Zone and has always been the venue for the bilateral governmental meetings. The reunification would be organized by the Red Cross of both nations: a delegation from the South should travel to the mountain on 22 August to "study the logistics of the event."

North Korea has also asked Seoul to remove the ban imposed on Kumgang tourist trips, an important source of income for the regime, which were interrupted in 2008 after a South Korean tourist was killed by mistake by a Northern soldier. The issue is among the "priorities" established by the two governments on 14 August, when (after months of negotiations) they also agreed to reopen the Kaesong inter-Korean industrial complex.

There are about 73 thousand South Koreans (almost all over 70) who want to embrace their families who remained in the North: "If I can see my family again - says 84 year old Kim Gyu-oh, - I will have no more regrets. I can die even now. "

Lately Seoul has focused heavily on the humanitarian aspect of the issue. Of those who survived the war, 9.3% are over 90 years old, 40.5% over 80 and 30.6% over 70. The government headed by Park Geun-hye pointed out that it would be "inhuman" not to allow these people to "say goodbye for the last time" to their families.

The thaw in relations between Pyongyang and Seoul could be derived from a desperate need for economic aid and food rather from the fear of renewed military alliance between South Korea and the United States. In fact this morning joint military exercises between the two countries began which -"the North has been long warned" - will last 12 days and will employ 50 thousand Korean soldiers and 30 thousand U.S. troops.


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