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Koreas Disagree Over Reunion ‘Apology’

Posted March. 25, 2006 03:10,   


Tensions are rising over an alleged South Korean apology to North Korea for the halt in South Korean press coverage of the 13th round of inter-Korean family reunions at Mt. Geumgang on March 23. The press ended its coverage of the event and went home after North Korea restricted their coverage and threatened reporters.

North Korea’s state-run Central News Agency reported on March 23, “North Korea has decided to continue the second round of ongoing reunions, given that the head of the South Korean delegation has acknowledged South Korea’s mistakes in writing and expressed regret over the behavior of the South Korean press corps that strongly provoked North Korea.”

But a South Korean Unification Ministry official said yesterday, “It was neither an apology nor an acknowledgment of mistakes. It was just an expression of regret.” The official added, “Individual reunions of each separated family were suspended on March 21. So, as one of the heads of the delegation in charge of the reunions of separated families, I expressed regret [in writing] over the unexpected situation where the reunions were being delayed.”

Even if it was just an expression of “regret,” however, the position is not in accordance with what Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok said on March 23. “I emphasized that North Korea’s attitude is of no help in developing the inter-Korean relationship, so I called for a correction,” Lee said. As a result, suspicions have been raised over whether the government is taking a stand against North Korea again.

Jong-Koo Yoon jkmas@donga.com