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February 07, 2014

S. Korean President Urges North Not to Cancel Family Reunions

by VOA News

South Korea's president has urged North Korea not to cancel its agreement to host a reunion for families divided by the Korean War.

President Park Geun-hye told a defense meeting in Seoul Friday that North Korea should not hurt the separated families again. Last year, both sides agreed to resume the family meetings, but North Korea canceled at the last minute, citing what it called the South's "hostility."

On Thursday, Pyongyang threatened to cancel the just-announced family reunions if Seoul and Washington go ahead with upcoming joint military drills.

The threat came just a day after Pyongyang and Seoul agreed to hold reunions later this month between families separated by the 1950s Korean War.

On state television Thursday, the North's National Defense Commission was quoted as saying the war drills are incompatible with improved inter-Korean relations.

However, Kim Min-seok, a spokesman for South Korea's Defense Ministry, insisted that Seoul is standing firm, and will not cancel this month's war drills.

South Korean officials said Wednesday that they had received assurances that Pyongyang would follow through this time.

North Korea has for weeks called for the U.S. to cancel the exercises set for later this month, saying they are a preparation to invade.

Since the family reunions began in 2000, about 18,000 Koreans have been temporarily reunited.

Many more Koreans, many of whom are aging, are anxious for the program to resume as they are not able to exchange letters or phone calls with their relatives.

If this month's reunions take place, they will be held from February 20-25 at the Mount Kumgang resort on North Korea's east coast.