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North, S. Korea Begin Talks on Reconnecting Transportation Links - 2002-09-14


Military officials from North and South Korea have begun talks on reconnecting severed road and rail links across the border separating the two countries. This is the latest sign of warming relations between the long-time enemies.

The military officials from the two Koreas are meeting at the border village of Panmunjom, in the demilitarized area separating the countries. They are discussing measures to guarantee the safety of troops who will clear the area of mines and razor wire before work starts on reconnecting transport links. The military representative from South Korea says the significance of the plan goes beyond simply re-linking disconnected roads. He says it lays the groundwork to boost exchanges and cooperation and will contribute to the peninsula becoming a trade center in Northeast Asia.

If the plan goes according to schedule, road and rail links could be reconnected by the end of the year. They would be the first land links between the two nations in almost 50 years.

South Korea has promised to contribute equipment and material for the project, while North Korea is to provide the labor.

The talks Saturday take place as 100 elderly people from each of the Koreas spend the second day of their five-day reunion with relatives they have not seen for half a century. Among the group from South Korea was 93-year-old Kim Soon Kew.

Kim Soon Kew expressed delight at meeting her daughter who lives in North Korea. She said one only has to look at the fact that she couldn't stop laughing to see how happy she is.

The reunions are taking place at the Diamond Mountain resort on the North's east coast. They are the fifth round of family meetings since the leaders of the two Koreas held a historic summit in 2000, with a pledge to work toward reconciliation.

The Korean peninsula was divided into the communist North and the U.S. backed South in 1945. They fought a bitter civil conflict which ended in 1953, severing all contact between the people of the two countries. North and South Korea remain technically in a state of war because they never signed a peace treaty.

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