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Family reunions likely to take place next month

Posted January. 27, 2014 03:19,   


The government has tentatively decided to hold in mid-February reunions of separated families that North Korea accepted. The most likely schedule for reunions is February 17 to 23.

A South Korean government source said on Sunday, “We held internal discussions to that effect.” On Friday night, Seoul’s Unification Ministry reportedly discussed specific schedule and other matters at a response meeting as the North accepted reunions of separated families in a surprise move that day. The government plans to propose the North on Monday to hold inter-Korean consultative talks to discuss scale and timing of a reunion event through the liaison officer at the truce village of Panmunjom.

○ Seoul says, ‘the sooner reunions are held, the better it will be’

The South Korean government judges February 17 to 23 as optimal timing for a reunion event for separated families because the South Korea-U.S. Key Resolve joint military drill will start later in the month. While going all-out in rhetoric to call for peace on the Korean Peninsula this year, Pyongyang has been demanding a halt of South Korea-U.S. joint military drills including the Key Resolve and the Foal Eagle. Seoul judges that schedule for family reunions needs to be advanced to before the upcoming military drill because the North could seek to cancel reunions at the pretext of the exercise.

Seoul believes that the sooner reunions are held, the better it will be given that most of the people seeking reunions are aged 80 or older. There are also practical issues to address such as inspection of the North`s facilities at the inter-Korea family reunion hall at Mount Kumgang and verification of the list of families to be reunited, which will take at least two to three weeks.

The South Korean government also took into consideration that North Korea celebrates massively the so-called “Kwangmyongsong Day," late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s birthday on February 16, which is the second largest holiday in the Stalinist country. While accepting the South’s offer for family reunions on Friday, the North said, “Proceed with the event as the South pleases” despite attaching the condition that “After weather warms up." Against this backdrop, the South Korean government apparently judged that Pyongyang is less likely to reject a plan to hold the reunions in mid-February. However, not a few people urge the South Korean government to remain vigilant until a reunion event actually takes place.

○ President Park says, ‘Unification is way to ease North Koreans’ pain and suffering’

Receiving visiting U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Saturday, President Park said, “When considering examples such as Jang Song Thaek’s execution, the North is becoming an increasingly unpredictable place,” urging the North anew to display sincerity in acts. “North Korea is recently staging a campaign of conciliatory gestures all of a sudden, and if past experience is any guide, the North would sometimes stage provocations or took action incompatible with words after staging a propaganda campaign. Now, the North should demonstrate its sincerity through acts rather than words,” Park said. She stressed, “If the North truly seeks peace on the Korean Peninsula, it should take action to resolve the nuclear issue that constitutes the biggest roadblock to peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

“The most fundamental method to resolve North Koreans’ pain and suffering is unification,” Park said. “Unification will contribute not only to peace on the Korean Peninsula but also to peace and co-prosperity of the world.”

Park went on to say, “Japan must take bold and drastic actions so as to admit its responsibility for issues such as comfort women,” adding, “If Germany behaved as if to argue ‘we didn’t do anything wrong. It is something that could happen,’ would European integration have been possible?”

Serving as the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee`s East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, Senator Rubio is regarded as a potential presidential candidate for the Republican Party.