December 14, 2015 13:25
Talks between vice ministers from the two Koreas on Friday and Saturday collapsed after the North Korean side refused to discuss any of the issues on the agenda.
At the meeting in the border town of Kaesong, South Korea called for a comprehensive tally of all families separated by the Korean War and regular family reunions, building an eco-park within the demilitarized zone, and easing travel, communications and customs for businesspeople at the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex.
But the North Koreans refused to discuss any of it until the South agreed to resume package tours to the scenic Mt. Kumgang resort, which until their suspension in 2008 were a substantial cash cow for the regime.
South Korea declined and the two sides broke up without even setting a date for the next round.
The collapse ends hopes of improving ties after a cross-border agreement easing military tensions on Aug. 25 brought a brief detente.
Vice Unification Minister Hwang Bu-ki, who led the South Korean delegation, told reporters the North Korean delegation kept repeating "that the Mt. Kumgang tours must resume at the same time as the family reunions."
"We pointed out that the family reunions and the tours are separate issues, so the North Koreans unilaterally declared the talks over," he added.
In fact, South Korea only wants security guarantees for visitors and an investigation into the 2008 shooting death of a South Korean tourist who had allegedly strayed into some kind of military area.
To keep last week’s talks going, the South Korean delegates suggested separate talks on Mt. Kumgang, given that the resumption of tours is subject to these conditions. But the North Koreans insisted they must resume "unconditionally."
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