SEOUL - North Korea's Red Cross on Friday rejected a proposal by its South Korean counterpart for talks aimed at restarting reunions for families separated since the Korean War, according to the North's state media. ?
South Korea's Red Cross had proposed the talks on Wednesday to discuss a resumption of temporary reunions for family members separated since the 1950-1953 war. ?
But the North rejected the offer, accusing its neighbour of blocking cross-border exchanges, and insisting the South should first reopen suspended tours to its Mount Kumgang resort on the border. ?
Family reunions have been held at the resort since it was opened in 1998 as a symbol of reconciliation between the two Koreas. ?
Seoul suspended cross-border tours by its citizens after a North Korean soldier shot dead a South Korean housewife in July 2008. ?
The reunion programme has halted due to cross-border tensions. ?
Hundreds of thousands of family members were separated during the war. ?
There are no civilian mail or phone connections across the border, and many do not even know whether their relatives are alive or dead. ?
Since 2000, sporadic events have briefly reunited more than 17,000 people face-to-face and an estimated 3,700 - usually those too frail to travel - via video link. ?
But 80,000 people in the South alone are on the waiting list for reunions and thousands die every year before getting their chance. ?
Tensions remain high after the North's failed rocket launch in April. ?
Pyongyang has also threatened attacks on Lee's government and conservative media for perceived insults to its regime.