North Korea Agrees to Reunion Talks After Gaeseong Accord

North Korea agreed to discuss reunions for separated families, less than a week after an accord with the South aimed at reopening the Gaeseong industrial complex, and suggested talks be held at the Mount Geumgang resort.

The North’s Korean Central News Agency said today talks on Aug. 23 to organize family reunions should be held at the resort rather than the Panmunjom truce village, and also proposed additional talks Aug. 22 on resuming tourist visits to Mount Geumgang.

Family reunion talks should be held at Panmunjom, Kim Hyung Suk, a spokesman for South Korea’s unification ministry, said in a media briefing 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.

South Korean President Park Geun Hye on Aug. 15 proposed talks on family reunions, a day after the two sides agreed to “make active efforts” in reopening the jointly operated Gaeseong complex. While no timetable was given, the two will form a joint committee to prepare for reopening the facility.

“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 Gaeseong.”

The proposal is a way to test Park’s government and find out what it thinks about resuming tourism, Yang said. “This will be a good opportunity for both sides to find out what’s behind each other’s mind,” he added.

North Korea also said family reunions should be held next month, and that separate video meetings should coincide with its Oct. 4 declaration, according to KCNA.

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. The North pulled its 53,000 workers out of Gaeseong in April amid heightened tensions after a February nuclear test prompted tighter United Nations sanctions and the U.S. and South Korea held military drills.

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