unification ministry-policy plan

SEOUL, March 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will this year seek talks with North Korea on reunions of separated families to allay tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the Ministry of Unification said Wednesday.

In its 2013 policy plan reported to President Park Geun-hye, the ministry said it will propose meetings between the two countries' Red Cross groups to hold reunions of families separated by the Korean War "at an appropriate time."

About 81,800 South Koreans are registered with the government as having parted from their families in the North following the 1950-53 Korean War. Since first holding reunion events in 2000, the two countries had held such events every year before suspending them under former hard-line President Lee Myung-bak.

Seoul will also seek talks with the North Korean government to discuss ways to curb provocative rhetoric or actions by the North, according to the policy plan.

The unification ministry also plans to continue its humanitarian aid to the underprivileged in the North through international organizations, including the World Health Organization, as well as local private aid groups, the report said.

The plans come as Park's signature "trust building" policy toward the North is being delayed amid escalating tensions over the North's Feb. 12 nuclear test and continued military threats.

Almost all trade and exchanges with the North were severed in the punitive May 24 measures, which the South adopted in 2010 to punish the North for torpedoing the South Korean corvette Cheonan in the Yellow Sea in March that year.

Park has sought to depart from her predecessor Lee's hard-line stance and leave the door open for negotiations with the communist country.

The ministry will use both pressure and talks in order to help induce the North to make the "right choice," the report said.

Despite the currently icy relations, South Korea will continue its exchanges with the North in the sector of national culture and heritage and eventually seek to expand their ties to the economic, academic, religious and sports segments, according to the policy plan.

As part of efforts to rejuvenate the Kaesong Industrial Complex, the only remaining joint economic project between the two Koreas, the ministry will try to ensure goods made at the complex are given the same status as goods produced in South Korea for trade purposes. The status would qualify the goods for low-tariff benefits in trade with the countries the South has free trade agreements with, including the U.S. and the European Union.

South Korea will also consistently retain its principle of not tolerating provocations and helping to denuclearize the North, according to the policy plan.

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