North Korea willing to hold family reunions

Beijing, Jan 29: North Korea’s Ambassador to China, Ji Jae-ryong, Wednesday reaffirmed his country’s willingness to allow holding of reunions of separated families with South Korea after the Lunar New Year.

Ji made the remarks at a press conference held at the North Korean embassy in Beijing, Xinhua reported.

He said North Korea was determined to work with South Korea to create an atmosphere of reconciliation and unity, hold reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, resume tourism in Mount Kumgang, and promote north-south cooperation and exchanges.

North Korea’s Red Cross has proposed holding the reunions at the Mount Kumgang resort after the Lunar New Year holiday when the weather is warmer, said the ambassador, adding that the proposal was sent to the South Korea’s Red Cross.

On Monday, Seoul proposed to Pyongyang holding the reunion event Feb 17-22.

To sort out details of the reunion, Seoul proposed holding working-level contacts between Red Cross officials Wednesday at Tonilgak, an administrative building on the North Korean side of the truce village of Panmunjom.

As North Korea did not respond to the dialogue proposal until Tuesday, the two sides were unable to hold a meeting of working-level contacts Wednesday.

South Korea’s unification ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do Wednesday urged that if Pyongyang was willing to hold the reunions, it should make clear its stance on Seoul’s proposed dates.

The North-South reunion of separated families is greatly influenced by political factors.

South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye offered Jan 6 to resume temporary family reunions around the Lunar New Year, but North Korea rejected it, citing lingering obstacles, particularly the annual joint military drills between Seoul and Washington.

Seoul and Pyongyang originally planned to hold the family reunions in late September, but Pyongyang delayed it.

IANS