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N. Korea Rejects South's Offer to Resume Family Reunions

  • VOA News

A picture of the reunion of family members from North and South Korea in 2010 is displayed at the headquarters of the Korea Red Cross in Seoul, South Korea, Jan. 7, 2014.

A picture of the reunion of family members from North and South Korea in 2010 is displayed at the headquarters of the Korea Red Cross in Seoul, South Korea, Jan. 7, 2014.

North Korea has rejected a South Korean proposal to resume reunions of families separated during the countries' 1950s conflict.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye had suggested the meetings, last held in 2010, take place at the end of this month during the Lunar New Year holiday.

But on Thursday, the North's official Korean Central News Agency cited a regular U.S.-South Korea joint military drill as a reason the reunions could not be held.

It quoted officials as saying the family meetings could eventually be discussed if the South is ready to talk about "the proposals of our side."

Pyongyang has tried to link the reunions to resuming South Korean visits to its Mount Kumgang resort. Seoul suspended the visits in 2008 following the fatal shooting of a South Korean tourist in the area.

The impoverished North is anxious to open the resort because it is a valuable source of cash. But South Korea insists the Mount Kumgang issue be handled separately from the family reunion debate.

The South's Unification Ministry on Thursday expressed regret its offer was rejected, urging the North to "show sincerity through its actions, instead of talking about improving ties only with words."

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for improved inter-Korean ties in his New Year's Day speech, as is usually the case in such addresses. But the speech also included a threat of nuclear war.

Last year, the two Koreas agreed to resume the family reunions, before the North canceled, blaming hostility from the South.

The reunion program, which began in 2000 following a historic inter-Korean summit, has briefly reunited around 17,000 people separated for about six decades by the Korean War.
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