Updated February. 06, 2014 02:33
Separated families from South and North Korea will meet at Mount Kumgang in the North between February 20 and 25. The two Koreas agreed on the plan at a working-level Red Cross contact held at the truce village of Panmunjom on Wednesday. Family reunions are thus set to take place for the first time in four years since 2010.
A source from the South Korean government said, The government reiterated its plan to hold a family reunion event from February 17 to 22, which it had proposed, but North Korea suggested holding the event from February 20 to 25 by citing various internal issues, an offer that Seoul accepted.
The reunions of separated families will take place on two rounds: from February 20 to 22 for applicants in the South and their families in the North; from February 23 to 25 for applicants in the North and their families in the South. Families to reunite are 100 people each from South and North Korea. Based on the lists exchanged for reunions set in September last year, which were unilaterally cancelled by the North, the applicants from two Koreas will reunite with their loved ones in the upcoming reunion event. Lodging facilities for families from the South will be Kumgangsan Hotel and Oekumgang Hotel that the South Korean government suggested. The government will dispatch a facility inspection team to Mount Kumgang to prepare for the reunion event from Friday.
The schedule for reunions that the Koreas have agreed upon will coincide on two days with the South Korea-U.S. Key Resolve military drill, which will start during the last 10 days of this month. The South Korean government will proceed with the joint military drill as scheduled, because separated families are a humanitarian issue that has nothing to do with pending political and military issues, and the Key Resolve is a drill designed to focus on defense capability in nature.
A source in the South Korean government said, At the working-level Red Cross contact, the North mentioned the important offer that they made last month, and demanded the South to halt South Korea-U.S. military drills, but it was not a cause of dispute at the meeting because the North did not use this as condition for family reunions. The source added, The North cannot afford to unilaterally cancel reunions of separated families by citing the Key Resolve as excuse. At the working-level contact Wednesday, the government expressed regret for the North`s failure to keep its promise to hold a reunion event set on the Chuseok holiday last year, claiming such an incident should not recur.
On the agreement on reunions of separated families, the South Korean government said, We believe that the North responded to the governments suggestion that the North display with acts rather than words its commitment to improving inter-Korean ties. If reunions are successfully held, we could consider making progress in other pending issues in inter-Korean relations. The government implied that inter-Korean ties could gather momentum through the family reunion event as a turning point.