North Korea keeps mum on South's family reunions offer

By 배현정
  • Published : Feb 1, 2014 - 16:10
  • Updated : Feb 1, 2014 - 16:10
North Korea reiterated its call Saturday on South Korea to take concrete steps to improve strained ties, while keeping silence on Seoul's offer to hold family reunions later this month.

Seoul has been waiting for Pyongyang's answer to its offer to hold reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War at Mount Kumgang, a scenic resort on North Korea's east coast, on Feb. 17-22.

South Korea made the proposal days after the North offered to hold family reunions at a "convenient time" for Seoul in the latest of its conciliatory overtures toward South Korea.

Without responding to Seoul's offer, the North's state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper urged the South Korean government to stop "hostile military activities" and take "realistic actions to prevent a nuclear calamity" and to improve inter-Korean ties.

"Ignoring these tasks cannot be justified with any rationale," the daily said. "The prospect of ties between the two Koreas depends on the South Korean government's action."

The Rodong Sinmun also said family reunions can take place only when reconciliatory atmosphere is created by stopping hostile military activities, apparently referring to the upcoming joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States. The routine drills are set to run from late February through April.

The North claims the military exercises could be a rehearsal for a nuclear war against it. Seoul and Washington have vowed to go ahead with their joint exercises, calling them defensive in nature.

Family reunions are a highly emotional issue on the divided Korean Peninsula, as most of the separated family members are in their 70s and 80s and want to see their long-lost relatives before they die.

There are no direct means of contact between ordinary civilians of the two countries that remain divided by a heavily fortified border.

The divided Koreas have held more than a dozen rounds of reunions since the mid-1980s, bringing together more than 21,700 family members who had not seen each other since the three-year conflict.