North Korea state media said today that discussions regarding family reunions across the 38th parallel won’t happen until the South hears the North’s demands, in particular the re-opening of an inter-Korean tourism program that was highly lucrative for the North.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye offered earlier in the week to coordinate with North Korea on reuniting family members who have been separated since the Korean War over half a century ago.
“I hope that North Korea will create a new opportunity for South-North relations and a framework for dialogue by taking a good first step with family reunions,” Ms. Park said on Monday, according to Choe Sang-Hun for the New York Times. Even Ms. Park was skeptical of how North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would react to her proposal, however, going so far as to offer increased humanitarian aid and assistance to farmers in the North should Mr. Kim accept.
Millions of Koreans have been separated from family and friends since the Korean war came to a halt in 1953, with all phone calls, letters and emails between the two countries banned. Approximately 22,000 Koreans took part in government-organized reunions between 1985 and 2010, but 73,000 individuals remain on the waiting list since the reunion program stalled four years ago, according to Choe.
The South must address “the proposals of our side,” state-run media in the North said earlier today, before Kim Jong Un will discuss continuation of the family reunions. A key contention, according to Fox News, is “the restart of a dormant lucrative joint tourism project in the North.” Diamond Mountain Resort is located in a special administrative region of North Korea, allowing tourists from the outside world to visit via one road running through the Demilitarized Zone. The resort was closed down in 2008 after a South Korean tourist was shot and killed while walking on the beach at the resort.