Published : 2010-03-30 13:37
Updated : 2010-03-30 13:37
North Korea expressed regret over the death of six South Koreans in a flash flood caused by an unannounced release of water from a dam north of the border early last month.
Seoul accepted it as an apology, clearing the latest stumbling block in inter-Korean dialogue, during working-level talks on flood control held in the North`s border town of Gaeseong yesterday.
"The North`s officials expressed regret over the loss of life caused by the discharge of water from Hwanggang Dam and paid condolences to the victims` families," an official at the Unification Ministry said.
"They also explained that the relevant agency had no choice but to release the water in haste in order to prevent a bigger catastrophe."
The apology was made during the morning session of the talks, followed by discussions in the afternoon on how to prevent floods and set rules on the joint use of shared waterways.
Three South Korean officials -- Unification Ministry`s director general Kim Nam-shik and bureau directors from the unification and land ministries -- sat for the talks with the North Korean team of three led by Rhee Young-ho, director at a North Korean agency that oversees economic exchanges with the South.
Pyongyang began to warm towards Seoul since August, after a year-and-half of lambasting President Lee Myung-bak for his policy of linking North Korean nuclear activities with inter-Korean ties.
The change of stance in Pyongyang led to the recent resumption of inter-Korean family reunions and the South`s proposal on Monday for follow-up talks, which the North readily agreed to.
Five adults and a child were swept away by the flash flood on Sept. 6 while camping or fishing near the mouth of Imjin River in Yeoncheon, Gyeonggi Province, after North Korea opened the sluice gates of its Hwanggam Dam without notice in predawn hours.
There have been unannounced dam discharges by the North almost every year, but this year`s was the first to claim human lives. The body of a North Korean boy, apparently another victim of the flood, drifted down the river and was later returned to the North.
South Korea has since demanded the North offer an official apology and thorough explanation.