August 12, 2014 10:14
South Korea on Monday proposed talks between senior officials from both sides at the truce village of Panmunjom on Aug. 19, with an eye to resuming reunions of families separated by the Korean War.
Kim Kyu-hyun, a senior Cheong Wa Dae official, made the proposal in a message to Pyongyang. Seoul asked Pyongyang to suggest another convenient date if Aug. 19 is not possible.
On the agenda would be "matters of mutual concern, including reunions of separated families ahead of Chuseok" or Korean Thanksgiving, Kim said in the message.
Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae told reporters. "We made the proposal in hopes of dealing comprehensively with issues between the two sides. If the North responds, it will give us a chance to explain" President Park Geun-hye's attempts to give greater impetus to preparations for reunification.
The two sides could also resume discussions about North Korea's participation in the Incheon Asian Games, which broke up acrimoniously last month.
The North also has several demands like the cancellation of joint South Korea-U.S. military drills that start next Monday, lifting sanctions and resuming package tours to Mt. Kumgang.
But senior government official here said it is unlikely the two sides would come to an agreement on these matters.
In talks on Feb. 12-14, the two sides agreed to resume family reunions on the occasion of the lunar New Year's Day. But right after the first round of reunions, they stopped again and North Korea fired a series of ballistic missiles and short-range rockets in protest against South Korea-U.S. military drills.
On July 17, talks about the Asian Games also broke up after the North massively increased the proposed number of athletes and cheerleaders it wanted to send and asked Seoul to pay for their accommodation.
Meanwhile, Seoul said it will allocate money from the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund for healthcare aid for North Korea -- $7 million to the World Food Programme and $6.3 million to the World Health Organization.
The money will be spent on supplies of nutritious food for North Korean babies and mothers, shipments of essential medicines, improvement of health centers, and education and technical training of medical staff.
In August and October last year, Seoul donated $6.04 million and $6.3 million to UNICEF and the WHO each for their projects supporting North Korean infants.
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