UK & World News

  • 21 September 2013, 10:45

North Korea Halts Family Reunions With South

North Korea has indefinitely postponed a series of reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

Six days of meetings between relatives still separated six decades after the conflict had been due to start on Wednesday in Mount Kumgang resort, situated just north of the militarised border.

The last time families were allowed to see each other was at a similar series of gatherings three years ago.

North Korea said this year's meetings would not go ahead as planned, accusing the South of a "reckless and vicious confrontation racket" against Pyongyang.

It also vowed to "take strong and decisive counteractions against the South Korean puppet regime's ever-escalating war provocations".

The postponement was announced by a spokesman for the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, in a statement broadcast by the KCNA news agency.

"The reunions of separated families and relatives between the North and the South will be postponed until there can be a normal atmosphere where dialogue and negotiations can be held," he said.

South Korea's Ministry of Unification, which is responsible for ties with the North, denounced the decision to postpone the reunions for political reasons as "inhumane" and unacceptable.

A delegation responsible for the reunions is currently in the North, the ministry said. It was not immediately clear when it would return.

The setback comes amid a period of improving relations between the two neighbours, with Pyongyang tempering its threats and pursuing talks with Seoul to restart various inter-Korean co-operation projects.

The Korean War separated millions of families, with vast numbers of refugees moving both north and south.

Past reunions have been the scenes of intense emotion, bringing together weeping family members desperate for details and news.

Many South Koreans have had little or no word about their loved ones for decades.