Park Calls for Fresh Cross-Border Family Reunions

President Park Geun-hye speaks during a press conference at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Monday. /AP-Newsis President Park Geun-hye speaks during a press conference at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Monday. /AP-Newsis

President Park Geun-hye on Monday proposed to North Korea a fresh round of reunions of families separated by the Korean War on the Lunar New Year's Day, which falls on Jan. 31.

She made the call in the first press conference of her tenure as president. "We need to open an era of national unification by ending inter-Korean confrontation, and removing war and nuclear threats," she said.

"I hope that the North will get off on the right foot by making the family reunions possible and giving fresh momentum to inter-Korean relations," she added.

The proposal came after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in a New Year's address called for better cross-border relations.

Last August, the two Koreas agreed to hold reunions on Chuseok or Korean Thanksgiving Day, but the North unilaterally cancelled the event with just four days to go.

"Reunions of separated families are the basis for restoring trust between the two Koreas," a Cheong Wa Dae official said.

Park mentioned three steps to lay the foundation for reunification. "First of all, we will seek various ways like strengthening international cooperation so that the North abandons its nuclear weapons program," she said.

This will be followed by more humanitarian aid to the North and efforts to "recover the cultural homogeneity of people in the South and the North," she said. She also wants to win international support for Korean reunification.

Park added she is willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at any time, but emphasized that any meeting "should not be talks for talks' sake."

Meanwhile, Park pledged to work out a three-year plan for economic innovation allowing the country to achieve a four-percent potential growth rate, per-capita in excess of US$30,000 and 70 percent employment.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jan. 07, 2014 10:09 KST