SEOUL, Oct. 1 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korea expressed hope Wednesday that the two Koreas would stage reunions as scheduled next month for families separated since the 1950-53 Korean War.
Ju Chul-ki, senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs, made the comment a day after North Korea warned that it could cancel the reunions in anger over President Park Geun-hye’s recent address to the U.N. General Assembly.
The two Koreas have agreed to stage the reunions for 100 separated family members from each side on Oct. 20-26 at Mount Kumgang, a scenic mountain resort on the North’s east coast. The reunions are a key part of a recent deal that defused military tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea said Tuesday that the upcoming reunions have been “put at serious peril,” due to what it claims is Park’s “reckless confrontation row.”
In an address to the U.N. on Monday, Park called on North Korea to embrace reform and openness rather than carrying out a long-range rocket.
She also said a rocket launch would harm the hard-won mood for inter-Korean dialogue and undermine the efforts to resume the long-stalled talks on ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
There is speculation that North Korea could launch a long-range rocket in October to put a satellite into orbit as part of its celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party.
Park also urged North Korea to improve its dismal human rights record by heeding to international concerns.
The North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea denounced Park’s speech as “an unpardonable provocation” and called on South Korea to apologize over slandering North Korea.
“If the South Korean authorities let loose a string of confrontational invectives as now, the event may prove completely abortive,” according to the committee, which handles inter-Korean affairs.
Family reunions have long been affected by political situations on the Korean Peninsula. The two Koreas last held family reunions in February 2014.
Family reunions are a pressing humanitarian issue, as most separated family members are in their 70s and 80s, and wish to see their long-lost relatives before they die.