North Korea agrees to hold family reunions with South Korea

North Korea has agreed to South Korea's proposal to resume reunions for families separated since the 1950-53 war, in another apparent sign of easing tensions. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP
North Korea has agreed to South Korea's proposal to resume reunions for families separated since the 1950-53 war, in another apparent sign of easing tensions. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea has agreed to South Korea's proposal to resume reunions for families separated since the 1950-53 war, in another apparent sign of easing tensions.

The North has agreed to hold the event during the traditional Chuseok holiday that falls on Sept 19 as suggested by the South, Pyongyang's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a statement. It also proposed another round of indirect family reunions via video conference around Oct 4 - the anniversary of the 2007 inter-Korean summit.

The move came days after the South's President Park Geun-Hye on Thursday urged Pyongyang to "open its heart" and agree to hold the first family reunions since 2010.

Officials of the Red Cross from both sides will hold a meeting on Aug 23 as proposed by Seoul to discuss details, the North said, suggesting the Mount Kumgang resort in the North as the venue for the talks.

Ties between the two Koreas have improved recently after months of high tensions. Last week, the two sides agreed to work on reopening the Kaesong joint industrial zone shut down in April.

The North also proposed on Sunday a separate meeting on Aug 22 to discuss reopening the Kumgang mountain resort and promised to discuss Seoul's key concerns, including ensuring the safety of tourists.

Kumgang was the first major inter-Korean cooperation project, and thousands of South Koreans visited the Seoul-funded resort in the North between 1998 and 2008.

The South suspended the tours after a North Korean soldier shot dead a tourist who strayed into a restricted zone.

"The resumption of the tours... will bring bigger joy to all the Koreans," the statement said.