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Red Cross Talks to Also Discuss Abductees, POWs

Posted August. 27, 2009 08:30,   


South and North Korea officials began Red Cross talks yesterday at the North`s Mount Kumgang resort on resuming reunions of separated families over the Chuseok holidays in October.

Discussion on the reunions had been suspended since November 2007.

A South Korean delegation arrived at Kumgang Hotel at 3:20 p.m. and held a plenary meeting with the North around 5 p.m. on exchanging key opinions.

Seoul officials reportedly suggested setting up reunions for six days from Sept. 28 through Oct. 3 at a reunion center at Mount Kumgang. The talks between representatives from both Koreas will be held today.

The head of the South’s Korean Red Cross Kim Yeong-cheol, who led the South Korean delegation, told reporters before leaving for the North, “The size of the reunions will be the same as that of the past. We’ll try to have as many people as possible included in the reunions.”

“The Kumgang reunion center, which has been idle since its completion in July last year, will be the venue for the event.”

Around 100 separated families from each side have been reunited through 16 face-to-face and seven video reunions.

A Unification Ministry official in Seoul said, “We’ll ask the North to begin the reunions in the last week of September, three days before the Chuseok holidays,” adding, “Two three-day reunion events are likely -- one for 100 separated families from the South and the other for 100 families from the North.”

South Korean Unification Minister Hyun In-taek told the delegation before their departure, “Given that the talks are for reunions of separated families that the people want, I urge you all to conduct the talks in a calm and resolute manner.”

The delegation will reportedly urge North Korea to repatriate South Korean prisoners of war and abductees. Pyongyang has denied detaining such people.

The Unification Ministry last year pledged to resolve the matter at a briefing by the presidential office.

Kim said, “The key agenda of the talks is the reunions of separated families but we will discuss as many issues as possible that can be dealt with from a humanitarian perspective,” adding, “We will convey our stance on humanitarian issues.”

Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung echoed Kim’s comment, saying, “Humanitarian issues will be discussed at the meeting.”

On the four South Korean fishermen detained by the North after their ship drifted into North Korean waters July 30, Kim said the North Korean delegation that visited Seoul to pay tribute to the late President Kim Dae-jung promised to release them.

“So we feel no need to bring up the issue,” he added.

Spokesman Chun said, “On the release of the South Korean fishermen, we’ve urged the North to contact us through direct Red Cross phone lines at the Panmunjom truce village instead of military channels.”