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Red Cross talks break down

Posted September. 23, 2000 20:13,   


The second round of inter-Korean Red Cross held at Geumgangsan Hotel in Goseong county, North Korea, broke down Saturday as the two sides failed to narrow their differences on means of reuniting divided families, determining the fate of displaced persons, allowing the exchange of mail between the two countries and the establishment of permanent reunion stations. The second round of Red Cross meetings was launched in the Mt. Geumgang area Sept. 20.

Chief South Korean delegate Park Ki-Ryun and his Northern counterpart, Choe Sung-Chol, held exclusive talks three times in the day, but failed to agree on the two central issues of the identification and location of dispersed families and free correspondence. The date for the next round of talks was not set either.

On the other hands, the two Koreas found it easy to agree on holding further family reunions Nov. 2-5 and Dec. 5-7 simultaneously in Seoul and Pyongyang. They will be the second and third such exchange visits.

The delegates also agreed to choose one of two methods of addressing the pending issues -- communication in writing via the Red Cross liaison office in the truce village of Panmunjeom or addressing the matters at the third round of Red Cross talks to be scheduled later on.

The delegation from Seoul proposed in the morning that the rosters of displaced persons registered with the Red Cross authorities of the two sides be exchanged in September without limiting their number.

Seoul also suggested that both sides be required to notify the other of the results of their efforts to identify and determine the location of separated family members at any time. The Northern delegates insisted that for starters, the fate of 100 divided family members would be accounted for in September, and the number would increase gradually over the coming months. On mail exchanges the North also said that they should begin with 100 persons in October "in a pilot project" to be expanded gradually in the future. Thus, the two sides had major differences over the scope and timing of identifying divided families and allowing the flow of letters.

Chief delegate Park from Seoul told the press that North's offer to hold family reunions on two occasions in November and December was accepted to satisfy the wishes of the North. There was no time to bring up the idea of having reunited families stay together overnight, he said. Even though the date for the third round of talks was not fixed, North Korea reportedly suggested that it be scheduled for sometime after the third exchange of families in December.

Kim Young-Sik spear@donga.com