South Korea said Monday the two Koreas should hold the family reunions later this month as planned, after Pyongyang threatened to backpedal from their agreement to hold the event citing the upcoming Seoul-Washington military exercises.
The two Koreas agreed last week to stage the reunions for families separated in the 1950-53 Korean War at Mount Kumgang, a North Korean scenic resort on the east coast, from Feb. 20-25.
The prospect of the reunions was quickly thrown into doubt as the North threatened to backtrack from the deal in protest of South Korea's alleged slander and its upcoming joint military drills with the United States, which Pyongyang claims are a rehearsal for a nuclear war against it.
Still, the Koreas have exchanged a list of families to participate in the reunions, and North Korea also allowed dozens of South Koreans to visit the resort to prepare for the reunions.
South Korea has also sent three snowplows to the resort to clear heavy snow, Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do told reporters.
"The reunions should be held as agreed upon with North Korea," noting the reunions have nothing to do with the military drills.
Seoul and Washington have vowed to go ahead with the annual "Key Resolve" and "Foal Eagle" exercises, which are set to run from late February through April, calling them defensive in nature.
About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the Korean War.
Family reunions are a pressing humanitarian issue on the divided peninsula, as most of the separated family members are in their 70s and 80s, and wish to see their long-lost relatives before they die.
The divided Koreas have held more than a dozen rounds of reunions since their landmark summit in 2000, bringing together more than 21,700 family members who had not seen each other for more than six decades. Millions of Koreans remain separated since the Korean War that ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty. (Yonhap)