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ROK, DPRK officials meet on resuming family reunions

A South Korean delegation this morning met with its DPRK counterpart on resuming separated family reunions and other humanitarian projects in Kaesong, a border city in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Two working-level officials -- Kim Eyi-do, senior policy cooperation officer at the Unification Ministry, and Kim Sung-geun from the Red Cross -- were sent to the talks, local media reported.

According to officials here, Seoul will discuss with Pyongyang on arranging new rounds of separated family reunion events on the occasion of the Lunar New Year's Day in February, while the DPRK side will likely demand South's humanitarian aids such as rice and fertilizer. The issues of restarting tour programs to the DPRK's Mount Kumgang resort and Kaesong are also expected to be touched upon during the talks, the officials added.

If the DPRK side raises the issue of humanitarian aids, the Seoul will make a decision "depending on the developments," Unification Minister Hyun In-taek told media yesterday.

Local media said Hyun's remarks hinted that the government would likely soften its position on government-level aids to the DPRK, which has been suspended after South Korea's conservative government under President Lee Myung-bak came to power in February2008.

The Seoul side on Monday put forward the proposal for holding talks with the DPRK on family reunions, and Pyongyang accepted it the following day.

The two sides held the latest round of family reunions during the period from Sept. 26 to Oct. 1, the first in nearly two years.

Pyongyang did not promise to regularize the family reunions at the Red Cross contact in August.

The family reunions program, which began in 2000 after a historic inter-Korean summit between the two sides, was suspended as ties between Pyongyang and Seoul soured in 2008.

About 600,000 South Koreans are believed to have relatives in the DPRK. Ordinary citizens were not allowed to make phone calls, send letters or exchange e-mails across the border.

The two sides also met on Wednesday on river flood prevention in the same venue, which marked the first government-level talks between Seoul and Pyongyang since July, when the two sides wrapped up the third round of talks on Kaesong industrial park issues without making any breakthrough.


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