North, South Korea Talks Collapse over Family Reunification Vacation Resort

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North and South Korea ended two days of talks without any resolutions to recent disagreements. Neither side could also agree on a future meeting date.

The North Korean government wanted to resume “cross-border tours of the Mount Kumgang resort.”

“The North intensively raised the issue of the Mount Kumgang tourism… demanding an agreement to restart the tourism as a priority,” explained Hwang Boogi, South Korea’s chief delegate.

The cross-border tours were cancelled in 2008 after a soldier shot and killed a South Korean tourist that summer. The soldier killed the 53-year-old woman “after she crossed into a military zone.” Her death is the first since the resort opened in 1998, which hosted over a million tourists in those 10 years. South Korean tourism company Hyundai Asean ran the resort, but the workers were all from North Korea.

The South Korean delegation hoped to concentrate on family reunions between families separated by the DMZ. The officials demanded “identification” for the families and the ability to exchange letters on a regular basis. Hwang said the South pressed the North to “commit to more reunions between aging family members.” From Korea JoonAng Daily:

More than 19,700 Koreans have met at the temporary family reunions that have been held irregularly between the rivals since 2000, including nearly 1,000 at the latest meetings at Diamond Mountain in October. None of them has been given a chance to attend a second reunion because the Koreas bar their citizens from visiting each other and exchanging letters and phone calls without special permission.

South Korea has called for more participants and more regular reunions, as thousands of people who had been on the waiting list have already died and many others have entered their 80s and 90s, but the North has refused to oblige.

Analysts say North Korea fears that its citizens will become influenced by the much more affluent South, which could loosen the government’s grip on power. The reunions are also considered a coveted North Korean bargaining chip in negotiations with South Korea.

The North refused to discuss the families until the South agreed to reopen the Mount Kumgang resort. The country is one of the poorest in the world and the resort provided the government with much needed money.

But when the South could not agree, the talks ended.

“Our government still maintains its basic stance to cultivate a normal relationship between the South and North, and continue dialogue with North Korea with an open mind,” concluded Hwang.