Minister urges Korea DPR to hold reunions unconditionally

Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae on Friday renewed Seoul’s calls for North Korea to quickly respond to its proposal to hold the reunions of separated families from Feb. 17-22, stressing that it is an urgent humanitarian issue.

Seoul’s Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae delivers a speech during an annual event to encourage people who miss their hometowns in North Korea at Imjingak in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on Friday. (Yonhap)

“If (Pyongyang) is really willing to address the issue of separated families, it should unconditionally respond to the proposal as soon as possible,” Ryoo said during an event to encourage the families with their loved ones in the North at Imjingak in Paju, Gyeonggi Province.

“It is very regrettable that the North takes an unclear stance even thought it accepted Seoul’s offer to hold the cross-border gatherings.”

Seoul on Monday proposed holding working-level talks with the North on Wednesday at the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjeom to work out details of the reunions. But the North did not respond to the offer, frustrating those anxiously waiting to meet their relatives in the North.

Seoul made the proposal days after Pyongyang suggested holding the reunions at “Seoul’s convenience” at the Mount Geumgang resort. The North’s proposal came as the North has stepped up a peace offensive viewed by South Koreans as “deceptive and insincere.”

As the South and the U.S. are to stage their annual military drills from late February, it remains to be seen whether the North would agree to hold the reunions that have not been held since 2010 due to strained inter-Korean ties.

Pyongyang has repeatedly demanded the cancellation of the drills, which it argues are intended to wage a war of invasion against it.

Seoul has recently focused on the humanitarian aspect of the issue of divided families as many of them have died of old age. Of the survivors, 9.3 percent were over 90, 40.5 percent were in their 80s and 30.6 percent in their 70s, according to recent government data.

By Song Sang-ho

Korea Republic to calmly deal with delay of family reunions: unification minister

INCHEON/BUSAN, Sept. 27 (Yonhap) — South Korea will calmly deal with North Korea’s abrupt postponement of family reunions for people separated during the 1950-53 Korean War, the country’s unification minister said Friday.

In a gathering hosted by the Incheon Business Forum in the port city west of Seoul, Ryoo Kihl-jae said the government was perplexed but not terribly surprised by Pyongyang’s announcement.

Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae gives a lecture at a gathering hosted by the Incheon Business Forum on Sept. 27, 2013 (Yonhap)


“As we have done in the past, the government will react in a calm manner,” he said.

The two Koreas had agreed to hold the family reunions event on Aug. 23 after it was formally proposed by President Park Geun-hye at her Liberation Day address.

The list of 196 people who could meet long-lost relatives were exchanged earlier this month and last minute preparations for the Sept. 25-30 event were underway when the communist country unilaterally postponed the gathering last Saturday, citing provocations by the South.

The event would have been the first such reunion in nearly three years.

The policymaker told entrepreneurs that the move by the North to break agreements should not be viewed as an unexpected event since the country has a long track record of not living up to promises.

He stressed Seoul will adhere to its current policy of building inter-Korean trust regardless of the latest developments, that includes providing humanitarian aid to the impoverished country.

The government announced earlier in the day that it will provide US$6.3 million in humanitarian aid to North Korean children through the U.N. Children’s Fund.

“In the past, humanitarian aid may have been used as a bargaining chip, but the current policy stance is different,” the senior official claimed.

In another meeting with students from Dong-a University in Busan, 453 kilometers southeast of the capital city, the official said that if the North wants to strive for economic growth and cooperation with South Korea, it needs to meet its obligations.

He said that while some headway has been made in cross-border relations that includes two summit meetings, it is premature to say that trust exists between the two countries.

“Seoul wants to send a message that it will abide by its past pledges and wants the North to do the same,” Ryoo said, predicting that if Seoul shows consistency in its North Korean policy, bilateral confidence can be built up, even if this process takes time.



Yonhap News Agency

Consistent policy to bring positive change to inter-Korean ties: official


SEOUL, June 30 (Yonhap) — Maintaining consistent policies aimed at building trust will bring positive change to strained inter-Korean relations in the near future, South Korea’s unification minister said Sunday.

In a meeting with reporters, Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae stressed that Seoul wants to send a clear message that it seeks to resolve all outstanding differences through dialogue and show Pyongyang that it is not interested in leading South-North relations in an arbitrary manner.

“If our policies are pursued in a consistent, persistent and predictable manner, cross-border relations will be transformed in the not too distant time,” he predicted.

The remark comes after Seoul and Pyongyang agreed to senior level talks earlier in the month, only to see them fall through at the last minute because of differences over the rank of the chief delegate. This setback showed the fragile state of bilateral ties that have taken a turn for the worse after the North detonated its third atomic weapon in February and threatened nuclear war against South Korea and the United States.

Ryoo stressed that while South Korea is committed to doing its duty to lessen tensions, the North must reciprocate in kind.

Ryoo Kihl-jae (Yonhap file photo)

“If Pyongyang fails to take such steps, despite the South doing its duty, there is a need to show fortitude and handle the situation in a firm manner,” Ryoo said, hinting that showing a predictable pattern, even if this is a strong response, is part of the trust building process that is the bedrock of President Park Geun-hye’s inter-Korean policy.

He said that once mutual trust is formed, the next goal is to strive for sustainable peace that will prevent clashes and sacrifices that have marred bilateral relations in the past.

“Sustainable peace without backtracking must be sought,” he emphasized.

The official said that while some people have been critical about the slow pace of progress in dialogue, such views reflect the “old ways” of thinking. The incumbent conservative administration has said that it wants meaningful dialogue that can address key issues such as the North’s nuclear ambitions, instead of pursuing endless talks that lead to no change whatsoever.

“It is my view that in reality, there has been no fundamental change in hostilities between the South and the North in the past 60 years and that perceived changes have all been superfluous,” he argued. “Both sides really never opened their hearts to the other side.”

The minister also said that one part of his goal will be to form a social consensus on unification that has been non-existent since the 1990s. He said that to bring about such change there will be a need to approach unification, not only as a political and economic endeavor, but as a cultural process.

Touching on the suspended Kaesong Industrial Complex, Ryoo said that the important thing is not the immediate reopening, but what measures are taken to permit its long term development.

The official said failure to address fundamental issues will invariably place the fate of Kaesong at risk and scare away investors.

The complex, located north of the demilitarized zone and the last remaining economic link between the two countries, has been closed since early April following the deterioration in two-way relations.

On Beijing’s stance toward the North, Ryoo said through a string of summit meetings between South Korea, the United States and China, the three sides have shared the view that the North’s nuclear issue is an urgent matter.


Yonhap News Agency