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South Korea proposes talks with North on family reunion

AFP | Last Updated: Monday, August 11, 2014 - 14:40

Seoul: South Korea today proposed a fresh round of high-level talks with North Korea to discuss another possible reunion for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

The first round held in February had marked the highest-level official contact between the two Koreas for seven years and led to a family reunion later the same month.

The South`s Unification Ministry, which handles cross-border affairs, said it was proposing a meeting at the border truce village of Panmunjom on August 19.

"We said we would like to discuss issues of mutual interest, including the family reunion during the Chuseok holiday," it said in a statement.

The traditional harvest festival falls on September 8 this year.

The last family reunion -- held at a North Korean mountain resort February 20-25 -- was the first for more than three years.

Millions of people were separated during the 1950-53 conflict that sealed the division between the two Koreas.
Most died without having a chance to see or hear from their families on the other side of the border, across which all civilian communication is banned.

About 70,000 South Koreans -- more than half of them aged over 70 -- are still wait-listed to join the rare reunion event.

Seoul had requested talks on a further reunion in March, but Pyongyang declined.

The always-volatile relations across the North-South border have been tense in recent months, with Pyongyang angered by South Korea`s annual joint military exercises with the United States.

Another joint drill is set to begin the day before the Panmunjom meeting proposed by Seoul -- an overlap that might well prompt Pyongyang to turn down the offer.

Pyongyang has been playing hawk and dove recently, carrying out extended series of missile tests since late June while making occasional peace overtures.

The last meeting between the two sides came last month, when sports officials discussed North Korea`s offer to send athletes and cheerleaders to the Asian Games that start late September in the South Korean port city of Incheon.

But the talks fell apart after Pyongyang accused Seoul of being arrogant.

If the North does agree to the high-level meet next week, Seoul would be willing to discuss other issues including Pyongyang`s request for the resumption of long-suspended South Korean tours, according to an official quoted by Yonhap news agency.

First Published: Monday, August 11, 2014 - 14:40

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