Seoul and Pyongyang have agreed to host reunions for divided families during September 26-October 1 at the Mount Geumgang reception house, Red Cross officials from the two Koreas said Friday in a joint statement wrapping up their three-day talks.
A total of 100 people from each side will be selected for the reunions, the statement said.
The screening process is slated to begin as early as September 1 and a final roster will be produced by September 17.
The Mount Geumgang reception house was chosen for reunions for the entire group. It will be the first such event the reception house will host, the Unification Ministry said. Individual reunions will be held at one of a number of venues, including the Mount Kumgang Hotel.
Seoul, however, was unable to include in the reunion roster South Koreans who were abducted to the North or prisoners of war.
During the inter-Korean Red Cross talks in the Mount Geumgang resort, there was no mention of the three principles the South had proposed to the North to regularize reunions and keep them politically immune.
The agreement simply called on the two Koreas to continue coordinating Red Cross humanitarian issues such as the family reunions to help bolster inter-Korean relations.
"It seemed that the North Korean delegation was not in a position to make independent decisions. (The North) said things would improve when relations between the two Koreas pick up," said Kim Young-cheol, secretary general of the Korean Red Cross who served as the Seoul delegation head.
He said he hoped to schedule more Red Cross meetings in the near future, but the two delegations were unable to reach an agreement on a date.
The two Koreas Friday wrapped up the three-day Red Cross meeting which was held for the first time in almost two years. It was the first meeting of its kind under President Lee Myung-bak's administration, said Kim.
Red Cross dialogue had been suspended since November 2007 due to a strained relationship between President Lee and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
As a consequence, family reunions also were put on hold even though Seoul had initially encouraged Pyongyang to jointly host more frequent and regular reunions.
"Our target was not only the upcoming Chuseok reunions, but the North was quite adamant about focusing on the imminent event so we will not push it," an official from the South Korean delegation said shortly before the agreement was announced.
The North did, however, agree to use the Mount Geumgang reception house as the venue, an act that critics say was not much of a concession.
Earlier, Pyongyang maintained that it preferred to hold the reunions at the Mount Kumgang Hotel.
The reception house was completed in July last year in anticipation of future reunions, but remained largely uninhabited due to the strained inter-Korean ties.
The two Koreas earlier this week agreed to the first Red Cross dialogue in 21 months as two Koreas appeared to be heading toward a rapprochement.
The reconciliatory mood comes as a cash-strapped North Korea increasingly seeks dialogue with the United States.
Pyongyang faces stringent financial and other sanctions under a resolution passed by the United Nations Security Council in the aftermath of North Korea's missile and nuclear tests earlier this year.
Starting last month, the North appeared to be gradually abandoning its brinkmanship policies -- at least temporarily -- by seeking better ties with Washington.
On August 5, it released two American journalists who had been detained in the North since March, and a few weeks later also released a South Korean worker who had been detained for more than three months.
However, four fishermen who were detained in the North in July for violating North Korean waters remain in Pyongyang's custody. Speculation had been growing that the foursome would be released on the sidelines of the Red Cross talks. -The Korean Herald/ANN