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North Korea Postponed a Scheduled Family Exchange Program, Gov`t to Reconsider Aids to North Korea

North Korea Postponed a Scheduled Family Exchange Program, Gov`t to Reconsider Aids to North Korea

Posted October. 13, 2001 09:07,   


North Korea`s Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland Committee (PRFC) announced yesterday that it has decided to delay the fourth round of family exchange program and its Taekwondo team`s visit to Seoul. As the South Korean government expressed strong dissatisfaction and sent a protesting message, it is worth paying attention as to how the government`s reaction would influence the future South-North dialogue.

Especially, after hearing the delay of the family exchange program at a luncheon with ministers of unification, foreign affairs, and national security, President Kim Dae-Jung ordered to take necessary measures to clearly express the South`s position to North Korea. This is the first time President Kim has ever ordered such a strong and concrete command mixed with dissatisfaction in relation to the South-North dialogue.

North Korea`s PRFC`s spokesperson said in a statement that ``dialogue and visitation cannot go smoothly in a hostile atmosphere of [South] which is in an emergency alert situation. There is no guarantee that any unforeseen incident may not occur. It is difficult to visit South Korea in situation like this.``

Choson Central Radio and Radio Pyongyang announced yesterday that the PRFC said that ``we hope that the family exchange program and Taekwondo team`s visit can be realized as soon as possible as an emergency alert posture of South Korea is released the favorable atmosphere is realized.``

However, the PRFC said that the sixth South-North ministerial talk, the second meeting of the South-North Economy Cooperation Committee, and the second South-North government talk for the activation of Mt. Guemgang tourism would be held according to the schedule. Regarding the meeting place, the PRFC said that ``we already proposed the place, and it is reasonable to hold talks in Mt. Guemgang area where the security is guaranteed.``

However, the government held an urgent countermeasure meeting, and urged the North to carry out the family exchange program as it is scheduled on 16th. The government also implicated that it may reconsider the aids to the North such as food aid, if the family exchange program is not realized, saying that ``if the family exchange program is delayed, we are worried whether we can achieved expected results, even if ministerial talk and the Economy Cooperation Committee meeting are to be held on schedule.``

A government official said that ``the North`s reason for the delay, which was the security reason following the emergency alert in South due to the terrorist attacks in the U.S., is doubtful. It seems that the North wants to hold talks between the two governments, while postponing a large-scale civilian exchange program.``

Meanwhile, North Korea`s Red Cross and Taekwondo Association sent the same messages to South Korea`s Red Cross and Korean Taekwondo League, respectively.

Kim Young-Sik spear@donga.com