2 Koreas to Hold Talks on Family Reunions
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - South Korea and North Korea moved a step closer to resuming reunions for families separated by the Korean War.
It is the first time in three years that the two countries will meet over reunions, although final agreement could be derailed by a row over South Korea-US military drills due to be held later this month.
After weeks of back-and-forth, and a period of silence from North Korea, the two rivals finally settled on a date for preparatory talks to set up a reunion event at the North's Mount Kumgang resort.
North Korea on Monday offered talks on February 5 or 6, and South Korea's Unification Ministry said it had chosen the Wednesday.
The working-level meeting will be held at the border truce village of Panmunjom where the armistice ending the 1950-53 conflict was signed, Al Jazeera reported.
"We welcome that the North has finally come forward to discuss the reunion," Kim Eui-Do, the Unification Ministry spokesman, told reporters.
"Given the urgency of the matter, we will make preparations to hold the reunion as soon as possible," Kim said.
The "urgency" refers to the fact that, 60 years after the war ended, many of those who experienced the division of their families have died, and most of those that survive are in advanced old age.
In a surprise move that coincided with a series of other apparently conciliatory gestures, North Korea had offered last month to host a reunion event and asked South Korea to pick the dates.
Seoul quickly proposed February 17-21, but given the time that has since elapsed that schedule now looks optimistic.
The reunion programme began in 2000 following an historic inter-Korean summit. Sporadic events since then have seen around 17,000 relatives briefly reunited.