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North Korea Agrees to Reunion Talks with South

Seoul — North Korea agreed to talks over reunions for families separated by the 1950-1953 war with South Korea, signaling new reconciliation after the two sides charted a path toward reopening a shuttered industrial complex.

Talks should be held Friday at the Mount Geumgang resort to organize family reunions, the North’s Korean Central News Agency said Saturday. The North also proposed talks for Aug. 22 on resuming tourist visits to Mount Geumgang, KCNA said.

The North’s proposal answers a call from South Korean President Park Geun Hye, who had proposed the talks Aug. 15, a day after the two sides agreed to make “active efforts” to reopen the Kaeseong complex. Tensions had soared earlier this year after the North conducted a nuclear test, prompting United Nations sanctions, and shuttered the complex in April to protest U.S.-South Korean military drills.

“South Korea’s government should agree to the North’s offer,” said Yang Moo Jin, professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. “The message here is that the North wants tours resumed along with Kaeseong.”

Family reunion talks should be held at the Panmunjom truce village, Kim Hyung Suk, a spokesman for South Korea’s unification ministry, said in a media briefing Saturday after the KCNA statement. The government will look into holding talks on Mount Geumgang tours and disclose its stance on the issue at a later date, he said.

The latest proposal is a way to test Park’s government and find out what it thinks about resuming tourism, Yang said. North Korea also said family reunions should be held next month.

Tours to Mount Geumgang on the North’s side of the border have been halted since North Korean troops shot and killed a South Korean tourist at the resort in July 2008.

bc-nkorea