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New Round of Korean Family Reunions Planned


South Korean media reports say that Seoul and Pyongyang have agreed in principle to stage a new round of reunions between divided Korean families. The two sides have also agreed to extend the four-day meeting to resolve the main issue blocking the reunions.

Cabinet-level officials from North and South Korea met again Monday at the North's Diamond Mountain resort to talk over the thorny issue of Seoul's anti-terrorist security alert. The issue appears to be the main barrier to an agreement on a new round of meetings between families kept apart by the division on the Korean peninsula.

Seoul enacted the anti-terrorism measures - including placing the country's security forces on alert - after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. But Pyongyang is blaming Seoul for increasing tensions on the peninsula. North Korea says it can not send its citizens to the South while the security alert is in effect.

Reports from the meeting site say the two sides have agreed to meet an extra day to try to resolve the issue.

Research fellow Paik Hack-soon of South Korea's Sejong Institute is not hopeful that progress will be made at this current meeting. "It is a matter of how to express the compromise solution regarding this matter that is the main point they are talking about," he said. "I do not have direct access to the dialogue, but knowledgeable sources tell me that this is the main issue that they are talking about and it is not going so smoothly at this point."

The two Koreas have held three rounds of family reunions since last year's unprecedented reconciliation summit between President Kim Dae-jung and his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Il. An additional family reunion set for last month was abruptly canceled by Pyongyang.

The family reunions are just part of a series of confidence building measures agreed to by Korean leaders last year.

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