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S. Korea to propose Red Cross talks with N. Korea

Feb. 27, 2014 - 13:34 By 정주원

South Korea plans to propose that the rival Koreas hold Red Cross talks to discuss further reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, an official said Thursday.

The two Koreas wrapped up the first temporary family reunions since late 2010 at a North Korean mountain resort on Tuesday as part of their recent deal meant to improve their soured relations.

Under the deal, the two Koreas agreed to hold Red Cross talks after staging the reunions to resolve humanitarian issues.

"We think about proposing (the talks) first," the official of the unification ministry said, adding that a time frame for the talks is under consideration.

South Korea has said it hopes to discuss with North Korea how to hold family reunions on a regular basis, and to address the issue of South Korean prisoners of war from the Korean War and abductees being held in the North.

South Korea has repeatedly called for frequent family reunions with North Korea, noting that time is running out for tens of thousands of elderly people who wish to see their long-lost relatives before they die. The North, however, has balked at the idea of staging frequent meetings.

South Korea estimates that 516 South Korean civilian abductees and 500 POWs are still alive in the North. North Korea denies holding any prisoners of war, and claims that civilians voluntarily defected.

Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae pledged Thursday to pursue humanitarian issues as a key priority in dealing with the communist country.

The South Korea's point man on North Korea told a group of the ruling party lawmakers that the humanitarian issues include family reunions and human rights conditions in the North, though he did not elaborate.

Also Thursday, the ministry allowed a private aid group to ship 190 million won ($178,000) worth of nutritional supplies to North Korea in Seoul's latest goodwill gesture toward Pyongyang. (Yonhap)