North Korea agrees to discuss family reunionsUpdated: 2014-02-04 06:28:32 (KST)
Breaking its week-long silence, North Korea proposed on Monday that the two Koreas meet for Red Cross talks on either Wednesday or Thursday to discuss resuming the long-suspended reunions for families divided by the Korean War.
Shortly after, South Korea accepted the proposal, calling for talks on Wednesday at the truce village of Panmunjom.
At the meeting, the two sides will decide when and where the reunions will take place.
South Korea had previously proposed holding the event from February 17th to the 22nd at North Korea's Mt. Kumgang resort, but since it takes roughly two weeks to prepare for such an event, the Koreas are up against the clock.
Nonetheless, Seoul's unification ministry prefers sooner rather than later.
"The exact date must be discussed with North Korea at the working-level talks, but the South Korean government will try to have the family reunions held as soon as possible considering the urgency of the matter."
The upcoming joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States, scheduled to begin late this month, could also push back the reunions.
Seoul and Washington say the annual drills, involving thousands of troops, are purely defensive in nature, but Pyongyang views them as a war game.
Experts say the North could make a counterproposal on the reunion dates that would have the event taking place after the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises, which end in April or even walk away.
"They can always say, 'We were nice, we wanted family reunions, we wanted better relations but the South Koreans as usual showed their aggressive nature.'"
"South Korea had earlier said the reunion dates could be changed at the North's request, if it was for justifiable reasons. But because North Korea has a history of walking out of its agreements, the elderly family members waiting to reunite for the first time in more than six decades will likely have their fingers crossed until the day they see their loved ones again.
Hwang Sung-hee, Arirang News."
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