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Reunion offer could work to improve inter-Korean ties in 2014: experts Updated: 2014-01-08 06:29:02 KST

Following in the footsteps of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's friendly New Year's message, President Park Geun-hye also made a conciliatory gesture on Monday, suggesting a resumption of inter-Korean family reunions for those separated since the Korean War.
Pyongyang unilaterally and abruptly canceled reunions planned for September just days before they were to take place.
So could President Park's proposal serve as the touchstone for friendlier inter-Korean relations this year?
Experts say yes.

"I think the proposal will serve as momentum to improve strained inter-Korean ties. President Park did urge North Korea to abandon its nuclear program, but overall, her speech has left the door open for dialogue. North Korea doesn't want further tensions now either, as it's weathering some internal instability."

Seoul's Unification Ministry, however, made clear on Tuesday, that the issue of family reunions will not be linked to the halted inter-Korean tourism project near Mount Geumgangsan.
The announcement is being interpreted by many as a way to block North Korea from taking advantage of family reunions to restart tourism operations.
Seoul maintains the stance that tours to the Mount Geumgang resort will not resume unless Pyongyang claims responsibility for shooting a South Korean tourist dead in 2008.
But some experts say the issue of the Mount Geumgangsan project won't get in the way of restarting inter-Korean dialogue.

"Even if North Korea attempts to mix the two issues, I think the two sides will be able to find middle ground as they've now both entered a phase of seeking out dialogue."

Analysts also add Seoul's latest offer will serve as a barometer of North Korea's sincerity in mending ties with the South.
Han Da-eun, Arirang News.
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