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N Korea agrees to resume inter-Korean tours, family reunions

Last Updated: Monday, August 17, 2009 - 14:38

Seoul: North Korea on Monday agreed to resume cross-border tours for South Koreans, ease border controls and allow more family reunions.
The agreement came a day after a meeting in Pyongyang between North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il and Hyun Jung-Eun, chairwoman of the South`s Hyundai Group, the official Korean Central News Agency said.

"All necessary facilities and security for tourism will be reliably provided according to the special measure taken by Kim Jong-Il, chairman of the National Defence Commission," it said, quoting a joint agreement with the Hyundai group.

Hyun, whose group runs inter-Korean business projects, had travelled to the North last week and secured the release of an employee detained there since March for allegedly criticising Pyongyang`s regime.

The statement said South Korean tours to Mount Kumgang resort on the east coast, and to Kaesong, a historic city near the west coast, would soon resume.

It said the North would allow South Korean tourists more access to Mount Kumgang and new access to Mount Paekdu near its border with China.

The North said it decided to lift controls on border crossings by businessmen and tourists. It also said it would allow more reunions of Korean families separated since the 1950-1953 war, and these would be held around Korean Thanksgiving Day, which falls on October 3 this year.

S Korea urges talks

South Korea today cautiously welcomed North Korea`s decision to lift border restrictions and restart tours to the communist state, but said the two governments must hold talks before trips can resume.

The government "positively evaluates" the joint statement by Pyongyang and Seoul`s Hyundai Group on restarting tours and on family reunions, said unification ministry spokesman Chun Hae-Sung.

"This is an agreement reached at a civilian level. We need concrete accords to be worked out through talks between the authorities of the two Koreas to implement this agreement", he added

"The government will make active efforts to reach the accords between the authorities... as early as possible", he said.

Bureau Report

First Published: Monday, August 17, 2009 - 14:38
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