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North Korea agrees to hold talks on family reunions

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea said Monday that North Korea had agreed to hold talks on arranging reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War for the first time in more than three years.

North Korea last month agreed to restart the reunions and asked South Korea to pick the date. Seoul subsequently chose Feb. 17-22 and proposed working-level talks to discuss details about the reunions. But Pyongyang hadn’t responded for a week, drawing complaints from Seoul officials.

Breaking its weeklong silence, North Korea on Monday sent a message proposing the talks take place either on Wednesday or Thursday at a border village and let South Korea choose the date, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry and Pyongyang’s state media.

South Korea replied it preferred Wednesday, according to the Unification Ministry. Spokesman Kim Eui-do said Seoul officials will try to arrange the reunion as soon as possible.

The reunion program is one of several cross-border cooperation projects that have been stalled in recent years amid tension between the divided Koreas. The program is highly emotional as most applicants are in their 70s or older and want to have the possibility to see their long-lost relatives before they die.

Pyongyang has recently toned down its typical rhetoric against Seoul and made a series of conciliatory gestures. Last spring, the country dramatically raised tensions by issuing repeated threats to launch nuclear wars.

Analysts say the impoverished North needs improved ties with South Korea as that will help the country attract foreign investment and aid.



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